27 January 2023

NSW is further expanding free access to Japanese encephalitis (JE) vaccine to ensure residents living in high-risk regional areas are protected this mosquito season.

The change in eligibility criteria removes the need for people living in high-risk areas to spend at least four hours per day outdoors and clarifies other criteria to help people assess if they can access the free vaccine. This change in eligibility criteria is being made in NSW and Victoria.

In addition to the current group of people who work with pigs or mosquitoes or in specialised laboratories, Communicable Diseases Network Australia's (CDNA) national priority groups, and some international travellers, JE vaccine is now also recommended for people aged 2 months or older who live or routinely work in any of the high-risk Local Government Areas and

  • regularly spend time outdoors placing them at risk of mosquito bites, or
  • are experiencing homelessness or
  • are living in conditions with limited mosquito protection (e.g. tents, caravans, dwellings with no insect screens) or
  • are engaging in outdoor flood recovery (clean-up) efforts, including repeated professional or volunteer deployments.

JE vaccine is available through local General Practitioners (GPs), Aboriginal health services and pharmacists. People who meet the above criteria should make an appointment ahead of time and let them know it is for the JE vaccine. These providers may require a few days' notice so they can order the vaccine.

Keira Glasgow, NSW Health Director of One Health urged eligible community members to book in with their healthcare provider and get vaccinated against JE.

"Now is a great time to vaccinate, not just because we're in the midst of mosquito season but because the eligibility criteria are now expanded to include a much broader group within affected regional areas," Ms Glasgow said.

"However, it's important the community continues to stay vigilant and take precautions against mosquito bites altogether because, aside from Japanese encephalitis, mosquitoes carry a range of viruses for which there are no vaccines."

People in NSW are urged to take action to prevent mosquito bites to protect against mosquito-borne viruses. Protect yourself and your family by:

  • wearing light, loose-fitting long-sleeved shirts, long pants and covered footwear and socks, especially around dusk and dawn
  • applying repellent to all areas of exposed skin, using repellents that contain DEET, picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus
  • re-applying repellent regularly, particularly after swimming, being sure to always apply sunscreen first and then apply repellent
  • using insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units and mosquito coils to repel mosquitos (mosquito coils should only be used outside)
  • covering openings such as windows and doors with insect screens and checking there are no gaps in them
  • removing items that might collect water (such as old tyres, empty pots) outside your house where mosquitoes can breed
  • improving drainage on your property so that water does not become stagnant.

For further information and ways to protect yourself visit Mosquito borne diseases.