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In this issue:

  • Zostavax catch up program for ages 71 - 79 years ends 31 October 2021
  • Avoid unnecessary extra vaccines for adolescents
  • Auditing vaccine cold chain for account holders of government supplied vaccines – be ready
  • Hypotonic-hyporesponsive episode (HHE) - Rare vaccine side effect
  • MumBubVax – New communication tools for health care providers
  • Do you need updating on hepatitis B and liver cancer prevention?
  • Common vaccine errors in 2020 – tools to help avoid this risk
  • Links to further information

Zostavax catch up program for ages 71 - 79 years ends 31 October 2021

The Therapeutic Goods Administration advises that Zostavax should not be used in people with compromised immune function, as it is associated with a risk of mild to serious complications (including death) from infection with the vaccine virus.

It is important for health professionals to be mindful of the potential for this very rare adverse event.

Use the Zostavax GP decision aid to assist in the identification of patients who may be contraindicated for the shingles vaccine.

In people who are or have recently been immunocompromised due to a medical condition or treatment, consider the safety of Zostavax case by case by referring to recommendations for use of zoster vaccine in people on immunosuppressive therapy.

Avoid unnecessary extra vaccines for adolescents

The Immunisation Unit has received reports of unnecessary additional doses of HPV vaccine being administered to adolescents. The interruption to the 2020 adolescent secondary school immunisation program means catch-up vaccines are being administered now. To prevent unnecessary vaccination please:

  • Check the Australian Immunisation Register (AIR) to ascertain if an adolescent has received vaccines from another immunisation provider prior to administering any vaccine.
  • Report vaccine doses administered to the AIR in a timely manner.
Resources are available to help vaccine catch-up planning.

Auditing vaccine cold chain for account holders of government supplied vaccines – be ready

Vaccines are fragile and expensive biological products that must be stored correctly to ensure efficacy. Weather events and human error cause vaccines to be exposed to a cold chain breach which can lead to vaccine wastage and a delay in vaccination for patients.

In preparation for the future of COVID-19 vaccination, the Immunisation Section is selecting services to be audited on vaccine cold chain management.

Review and implement vaccine cold chain protocols to apply best practice.

Read the RACGP Standards for general practices - Maintaining vaccine potency to check your medical centre is current.

Mobile and emergency vaccine storage equipment is vital when an unexpected cold chain breach occurs.

Hypotonic-hyporesponsive episode (HHE) - Rare vaccine side effect

The Melbourne Vaccine Education Centre has developed information about HHE. This is the sudden onset of muscle limpness, reduced responsiveness or unresponsiveness, and pallor or cyanosis occurring after vaccination in early childhood.

The episode usually occurs within 48 hours of vaccination and resolves spontaneously without treatment and there are no long-term side effects.

Be sure to inform parents of young children about HHE by using the Vaccine side effects fact sheet, ordered as a tear-off pad of 100 sheets (Product code PH002(PCH)).

Read about other common, uncommon and rare adverse events following immunisation in the Australian Immunisation Handbook.

Report adverse events following immunisation to Victoria’s vaccine safety service, SAEFVIC.

MumBubVax – New communication tools for health care providers

MumBubVax is a new evidence-based communication package to use in primary care or maternity services. It aims to improve conversations about vaccination between health care providers and expectant parents.

The MumBubVax package includes:

VaxChat eLearning modules for healthcare providers

There are 7 topics including:

  • communication techniques
  • strategies to address vaccination misconceptions
  • key messages about maternal influenza and pertussis and newborn hepatitis B vaccination
  • strategies to improve uptake in your clinic.

After each topic, users are quizzed on the learnings. Each module takes less than 15 minutes.

There is also a website for expectant parents with questions about vaccination in pregnancy and for new babies.

See the data for maternal vaccination from AusVaxSafety that monitors the safety of vaccines in Australia by receiving data reported directly from people receiving these vaccines.

Do you need updating on hepatitis B and liver cancer prevention?

Phuong’s (aged 35) mother died of liver cancer. She is scared she may also have “liver problems” and asks you if she can have the vaccine her children had.

  • The fastest increasing cause of cancer death in Australia is from liver cancer, primarily caused by untreated hepatitis B and C.
  • Many people living with hepatitis B or C are undiagnosed, come from vulnerable communities and need support to engage in healthcare.
  • Hepatitis B can be managed and treated. Vaccine is available.
  • Most people will be cured of Hepatitis C by taking tablets for 12 weeks.
  • The Viral Hepatitis Educator (RN, RM) delivers free, tailor made education to health professionals either online or in the workplace.
  • The education is funded by the Victorian Department of Health.
  • Presentations may include epidemiology, infection prevention, hepatitis B vaccination, transmission risks, management and treatment, cultural responsiveness, health literacy and communication.
Please contact or Ph: 0407 865 140 to discuss learning needs.

Common vaccine errors in 2020 – tools to help avoid error

A vaccine error is upsetting for the health professional and the patient and/or parent and can require additional injections to correct the error.

In 2020, there were less vaccine errors notified compared with recent years. Of the errors notified, the incorrect vaccine preparation, the wrong vaccine dose and wrong age for vaccination remained similar in number to previous years.

New and updated pictorial fact sheets for education and display can minimise these 3 types of vaccine errors.

Check you are using the correct vaccine brand when vaccines contain the same disease antigens.

New MVEC eLearning: Shoulder injury related to vaccine administration (SIRVA) demonstrates what SIRVA is, how it can be prevented, how SIRVA can be diagnosed and treated, as well as how to report SIRVA.


Indigenous infants receive Bexsero vaccine at 2 (from 6 weeks), 4 and 12 months and catch-up doses if aged less than 2 years. Catch-up is for a 3-year period until 30 June 2023.

Victoria is underway to make the COVID-19 vaccine available to everyone who wants to get vaccinated. Check for updates on Coronavirus vaccine.

Advice on the relative timing of administering influenza and COVID-19 vaccines in 2021 from the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation.


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