You can protect yourself against Japanese encephalitis virus (JEV) by getting vaccinated. JEV vaccines are recommended for people at risk of exposure to the virus, as advised by your local public health authority.
There are 2 JEV vaccines available and are registered for use in Australia:
- JEspect (also known as Ixiaro).
These vaccines have been used extensively over many years in Australian Defence Force personnel, residents of the Torres Strait Islands and travellers to southeast Asia.
Both vaccines, as well as other JEV vaccines produced by similar technologies are used extensively in childhood, and some adult, vaccination programs in countries with ongoing transmission of JEV.
Imojev is a live attenuated vaccine. This means it contains a weakened version of the live JE virus.
It is given as a single dose and recommended for use in people aged 9 months and over.
Imojev is not suitable for:
- people who have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised)
- pregnant people
- infants aged less than 9 months.
Imojev is distributed by Sanofi.
JEspect (also known as Ixiaro) is an inactivated vaccine.
JEspect is given as 2 doses, either 28 days apart, or 7 days apart in adults if they are at risk of immediate exposure to the virus. It is recommended for use in people aged 2 months and over. People who have a weakened immune system (immunocompromised) or pregnant people can receive this vaccine.
JEspect is distributed by Seqirus.
For those at risk of JEV infection (as advised by your local public health authority) who are previously vaccinated with a JEV vaccine, a booster dose is recommended if more than 1 year has passed since the last primary course dose.
This includes people:
- who cannot identify the JEV vaccine brand that they received
- who have received the JEV vaccine previously used in Australia (JEvax) or
- who have received JEV vaccines that are registered overseas that are used for JEV vaccination programs in endemic countries.
A booster is not required for people who have received a dose of Imojev when they were aged 18 year olds or older.
Getting a Japanese encephalitis vaccine
The National JEV Vaccination Plan provides an overarching framework for the use of JEV vaccines in Australia and was endorsed by the Australian Health Protection Principal Committee in August 2022.
Under the Plan, state and territory public health units are responsible for coordinating and implementing the JEV vaccination program.
The National JEV Vaccination Plan outlines a phased approach to vaccination based on JEV exposure risk, to maximise use of existing JEV vaccines in Australia.
Under Phase 1 of the Plan, vaccination was initially prioritised for those with occupational and/or relevant animal exposure risk, including:
- people who work at, reside at, or have a planned non-deferable visit to a:
- piggery, including but not limited to farm workers and their families (including children aged 2 months and older) living at the piggery, transport workers, veterinarians and others involved in the care of pigs
- pork abattoir or pork rendering plant.
- personnel who work directly with mosquitoes through their surveillance (field or laboratory based) or control and management, and indirectly through management of vertebrate mosquito-borne disease surveillance systems (e.g. sentinel animals) such as:
- environmental health officers and workers (urban and remote)
- all diagnostic and research laboratory workers who may be exposed to the virus, such as persons working with JEV cultures or mosquitoes with the potential to transmit JEV; as per the Australian Immunisation Handbook.
Expansion beyond these groups (Phase 2) has commenced, with states and territories defining the eligibility criteria within their jurisdiction based on local risk, vaccine availability and other evidence as it arises.
You can find more information about JEV in your local area, including vaccination eligibility, via your state or territory page:
- New South Wales
- South Australia
- Australian Capital Territory
- Western Australia
- Northern Territory
Contact your local public health authority to find out if you should have a JEV vaccine.
Tell your vaccine provider if you:
- have had an allergic reaction after a previous dose of a JEV vaccine, or have had an allergic reaction to any component in the vaccine, including protamine sulphate (for the JEspect vaccine)
- have previously received the JEV vaccine – you may need a booster dose. Your vaccine provider can also record your previous doses of JEV vaccine on the Australian Immunisation Register, even if you were vaccinated overseas
- are pregnant – pregnant people should not receive Imojev, but they can have JEspect
- have a weakened immune system – immunocompromised people should not receive Imojev, but they can have JEspect
- have an infant between 2 months and 8 months of age – the infant should not receive Imojev, but can have JEspect.
People with minor illnesses, such as a cold, can be vaccinated. People who are moderately or severely ill should usually wait until they recover before getting JEV vaccine. Your health care provider can give you more information.
If you have concerns about the nature of the medications you are on, or are uncertain about your degree of immunosuppression, you should not be vaccinated with Imojev, and should seek advice about using the alternative vaccine JEspect.
Common side effects of JEV vaccines are:
- swelling where the vaccine was given.
Fever may occur, more often in children. Headache or muscle aches can also occur, mainly in adults. These side effects usually go away within a few days.
Severe reactions to JEV vaccine are very rare. As with any medicine, there is a very small chance of a vaccine causing a severe allergic reaction.
Protection after vaccination
More than 95% of people develop a protective immune response to the virus by about 28 days after completing the primary vaccination schedule.
Vaccinated people should still use all precautions to avoid mosquito bites:
- applying and regularly reapplying an effective insect repellent on exposed skin (always follow the label instructions)
- wearing long, loose fitting clothing when outside
- ensuring accommodation, including tents, are properly fitted with mosquito nettings or screens
- using insecticide sprays, vapour dispensing units (indoors) and mosquito coils (outdoors) to clear rooms and repel mosquitoes from an area
- covering all windows, doors, vents and other entrances with insect screens
- removing any water-holding containers where mosquitoes may breed.
The best mosquito repellents contain diethyltoluamide (DEET), picaridin, or oil of lemon eucalyptus.
If you are pregnant or breastfeeding
If you are pregnant and are at increased risk of exposure to JEV you should get vaccinated with the JEspect vaccine. JEV infections during the first and second trimesters have been associated with miscarriage.
No adverse outcomes of pregnancy have been attributed to vaccination with JEspect.
If you are breastfeeding and are at increased risk of exposure to JEV, JEspect is recommended in preference to Imojev. Imojev is not contraindicated in breastfeeding.
Contact your local public health authority if you would like to know more about JEV vaccines.