Department of Health

Increasing access to the Japanese encephalitis vaccine

14/09/22

More Victorians in regional areas where mosquitoes are prevalent will be able to receive a Japanese encephalitis vaccine ahead of the warmer months and the possible re-emergence of this virus.

The newly expanded criteria takes in anyone who lives or usually works in the local government areas of Campaspe, Gannawarra, Greater Shepparton, Indigo, Loddon, Mildura, Moira, Swan Hill, Wodonga and Towong, and who are aged 50 years and over and spend at least four hours per day outdoors – whether for work or recreation.

The criteria now includes people in Towong Shire, along with people aged 50 years and over and those who are spending several hours outdoors for any reason in all of these areas.

“This expansion means even more people can access the vaccine ahead of the warmer months to protect themselves,” Victoria’s Deputy Chief Health Officer Associate Professor Deborah Friedman said.

”The vaccine is available free for people who meet these criteria. It will be available from select GPs, local public health units, including some COVID-19 vaccination hubs, community pharmacies, and local councils.”

Japanese encephalitis virus can cause a rare, potentially serious infection of the brain, and is spread to humans via mosquito bites. Most people who develop infection will have no symptoms, but 1 per cent can develop a serious brain infection.

Earlier in 2022, Victoria recorded its first-ever case of Japanese encephalitis virus infection – which normally occurs in many parts of southeast Asia, China, Papua New Guinea and the Torres Strait.

The eligibility criteria for the Japanese encephalitis virus vaccine continues to be based on those most at risk of contracting this virus.

This further expansion comes in response to Victoria receiving more vaccine supply, along with an analysis of the locations of affected pig premises, transmission sites responsible for human infection, and mosquitoes infected with Japanese encephalitis virus. It aligns with critieria in New South Wales.

The Department of Health, in collaboration with the Ovens Murray, Goulburn Valley and Loddon Mallee LPHUs, is currently conducting a serosurvey for Japanese encephalitis, to better understand the spread of this virus in northern Victoria and risk factors for infection.

”Getting vaccinated is one important step people can take, along with simple actions like wearing long, loose-fitting clothing outdoors, using mosquito repellents containing picaridin or DEET on all exposed skin, and limiting outdoor activity if lots of mosquitoes are about,” Associate Professor Friedman added.

For more information and advice regarding Japanese encephalitis, visit the Better Health Channel

Reviewed 14 September 2022

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