Media event date: 
5 August 2020
Date published: 
6 August 2020
Media type: 
Media release
General public

A new and improved Q Fever vaccine is progressing to pre-clinical trials following a $1.87 million injection from the Australian Government.

Announcing the investment in rural workers’ health near Queanbeyan NSW today, Federal Regional Health Minister, Mark Coulton, labelled Q fever a major issue for regional Australians.

“Q fever is a disease that affects families across the country.

“I know people who have suffered the its ill-effects, which vary in intensity from one person to the next, and know how important it is to ensure Australians have access to the best medical products possible.

“That is why the Government is acting to provide more support and more options for most at-risk Australians.”

The bacteria that causes Q Fever is spread from animals, mainly cattle, sheep and goats, but can travel up to 30 kilometres in dry, windy conditions and infect people who have had no contact with animals.

National Farmers Federation CEO, Tony Mahar, said the trial made possible by today’s funding is a significant step towards a more efficient and easier-to-access Q Fever vaccine.

“The disease is most commonly contracted by those working with livestock on property or in abattoirs, with times of drought considered particularly dangerous.

“There is no more important priority for agriculture than protecting the health and wellbeing of our people,” Mr Mahar said.

“Q Fever is an all-too-common illness affecting farmers and others employed in rural and livestock-focussed industries, impacting people, in some cases, for many years.”

Minister Coulton said the Government is keen to reduce the impact of Q fever and has been subsidising supply of the existing vaccine for many years.

“I’m excited by the potential of this new generation vaccine, being developed by an Australian research partnership. It could be a breakthrough for not only Australian farmers and meatworkers, but rural communities around the world,” Minister Coulton said.

“One of the potential advantages of the new vaccine is that, unlike the existing vaccine, you don’t need a test before you have it.

“This will eliminate extra costs and time in getting vaccinated, which discourages people from getting the protection they need, even though they may be at high risk of exposure.

“This development is exciting and compliments the Government’s investment in the existing Q-Vax® vaccine, which so many rural Australians, including me, currently rely on.”

Funding is provided to DMTC, which leads a national Medical Countermeasures Initiative with support from a range of Australian government agencies including the Departments of Defence and Health. DMTC will work with research and industry partners to manage the staged development of a new Q fever vaccine, including the Australian Rickettsial Reference Laboratory, a WHO collaborative laboratory in Geelong, Victoria. Dr Stephen Graves leads the research team.

Q fever causes a severe flu-like illness and can affect the health of people exposed to the bacteria, leading to chronic debilitating symptoms in extreme cases.

This study will investigate the dose-effectiveness of the novel vaccine compared to the current vaccine, Q-Vax®, as a prelude to clinical trials on people.

Today’s announcement builds on the recent investment by the Australian Government boosting funding to research rare diseases, including a study into making Q-Vax® available to a younger cohort of recipients.