Japanese Encephalitis Vaccine Trial Could Expand Limited Supply And Reduce Costs

Three people have died from the mosquito-borne Japanese encephalitis virus, but a new study could lower vaccine costs and increase Australia’s vaccination rates.
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As cases of Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) spread across Australia, there are concerns that the high cost of the vaccine is preventing some people from getting vaccinated.

Takeaway: Virus has infected animals on dozens of pig farms in Australia

The virus has infected animals on dozens of pig farms in Australia. The trial could bring the price of the vaccine down to about

This process can bring the price of a stitch down to around . Three so far have 33 confirmed cases in Australia

The vaccine currently costs 0, but trying to vaccinate in smaller doses could end up protecting four times as many people and reducing the cost by as much as a third.

JEV is transmitted by mosquitoes and recently spread to New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia via Queensland, with 33 confirmed cases and 3 infections.

Researcher Luis Furuya-Kanamori, from the UQ Centre for Clinical Research, said preliminary results from the study’s first 11 participants were promising.

“All of our first cohort participants were protected from the virus a month after vaccination,” he said.

Japanese encephalitis is a viral zoonotic disease transmitted by mosquitoes. (Courtesy: Stephen Docter)

Small doses cover more people

Dr. Furuya-Kanamori said study participants received smaller doses in the top layer of the skin rather than muscle, an approach that has been successfully used in vaccinations against rabies and yellow fever.

“We kept a fifth of the standard dose, so we could use the same vial and distribute it to four participants,” he said.

Dr Furuya-Kanamori said this could bring the cost down to around per dose and increase the dose in Australia, where the vaccine is limited.

“I think the federal government has bought over 100,000 doses, so it’s really important that vulnerable people start getting vaccinated,” he said.

The vaccine will be given priority to those considered high risk, including farm workers and their families, transport workers, veterinarians, pig slaughterhouse workers, mosquitoes and virus researchers.

Study participants were followed for two months, with final results expected in the second half of this year, Dr. Furuya-Kanamori said.

The study currently has 30 participants and hopes to recruit 20 more from the Brisbane area.

Laurie Brosnan and his team have not yet been vaccinated against JEV. (ABC Rural: Meg Bolton)

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