Information updates

New ASCIA Quick Reference Guides for COVID-19 Vaccination

As a result of recent ASCIA meetings with the Australian Technical Advisory Group on Immunisation (ATAGI), the following one page guides have been developed:

Allergy and COVID-19 Vaccination - Guide for health professionals New

Immunodeficiency, Autoimmunity and COVID-19 Vaccination - Guide for health professionals New

The ASCIA Quick Reference Guides are based on information from the ASCIA Position Statement and Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) which provide more details:

Allergy, Immunodeficiency, Autoimmunity and COVID-19 Vaccination - Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) for patients, consumers and carers New

Allergy, Immunodeficiency, Autoimmunity and COVID-19 Vaccination - Position Statement for health professionals New 

All of the above documents are available open access on the ASCIA website allergy.org.au/members/covid-19

These documents will be updated when new information is available.

ASCIA COVID-19 Update

The ASCIA COVID-19 Working Party has developed the following two new documents to provide guidance about allergy, immunodeficiency, autoimmunity and COVID-19 vaccination, in preparation for the COVID-19 vaccination programs in Australia and New Zealand:

These documents will be regularly reviewed and updated by ASCIA as new information becomes available.                     

Why is the COVID-19 vaccination program important?

Vaccination is an important way to reduce the risk of developing infectious diseases which can easily spread. This includes COVID-19, which is caused by infection with the SARS-CoV-2 coronavirus. Immunity occurs after the vaccine stimulates a person’s immune system to make antibodies (immunoglobulins) to help protect the body from future infections. This means that if a person is vaccinated, they will be less likely to get COVID-19. Even if a person does get infected, it is likely to be a milder illness.

Public health measures and restrictions that were implemented by the Australian and New Zealand governments since March 2020 have been successful in controlling the spread of COVID-19 in our countries. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has been a major cause of illness and deaths in other countries. This means that vaccination programs are required throughout the world, including Australia and New Zealand. 

ASCIA supports the Australian government's National COVID-19 Clinical Evidence TaskForce Living Guidelines

These Guidelines are reviewed and updated weekly with the latest research, which is important, as some treatment recommendations have changed significantly over the past year. 

The Guidelines are available at https://covid19evidence.net.au/

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Australia Day 2021 Honours for ASCIA Members

28 January 2021

ASCIA congratulates the following ASCIA members who received Australia Day honours this year:

  • A/Professor Richard Loh OAM, awarded for his service to medicine, particularly to clinical immunology.         

https://honours.pmc.gov.au/honours/awards/2008192

  • A/Professor Sheryl Van Nunen OAM, awarded for her service to medicine, particularly to clinical immunology and allergy.

https://honours.pmc.gov.au/honours/awards/2008178

This is a great recognition of their valued contributions, hard work and vision in the field of allergy and clinical immunology. 

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Change to My Health Record COVID-19 Pathology Reports

8 January 2021

As part of the Australian Government’s pandemic response, a change has been made in the My Health Record system so that COVID-19 pathology reports are available to consumers in their My Health Record sooner. This change has been made in consultation with industry and government stakeholders. During the pandemic, timely delivery of COVID-19 test results to patients is crucial in containing the spread of the virus.

From 21 December 2020, if a pathology service uploads reports to My Health Record, any COVID-19 reports will be available after 24 hours to consumers who have a My Health Record. This is a convenient way to access results in addition to the direct notification already sent. Prior to 21 December 2020, when a pathology or diagnostic imaging report was uploaded to My Health Record, it was not available for viewing by consumers in their record until 7 days later.


All other pathology reports uploaded to My Health Record will continue to be available after seven days, giving clinicians time to check the report first and contact their patient about the results, if needed.

A review of the change will be conducted after 3 months.

Safety Alert: Zostavax Vaccine – NOT to be used in people with compromised immune function

23 December 2020: 

Professor Paul Kelly, the Chief Medical Officer of the Australian Government Department of Health, has issued the following notice regarding the Zostavax vaccine for prevention of shingles.

pdfCMO letter re Zostavax 22 Dec 2020176.56 KB

Zostavax is a live, attenuated varicella-zoster virus vaccine that is administered for prevention of shingles. This vaccine is registered for use in Australia for people aged more than 50 years, and is available under the National Immunisation Program for people aged 70-79 years.

Zostavax  must NOT be given to people with current or recent severe immunocompromising conditions from either a primary or acquired medical condition or medical treatment. This includes people who:

  • Are immunocompromised
  • Have medical conditions that place them at risk of immunocompromise
  • Are receiving low doses of immunosuppressive medication.

For more details visit https://www.tga.gov.au/alert/zostavax-vaccine-1

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ASCIA’s Plans for 2021

21 December 2020

As the challenging year of 2020 is coming to an end, we take this opportunity to update you on ASCIA’s plans for 2021. 

Despite all the challenges in 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of immunology and the need for a strong, flexible health system. Outbreaks have also highlighted the need to remain vigilant and prepared.

We hope that the new year of 2021 brings you happiness, health and success.

Professor Michaela Lucas
ASCIA President

Jill Smith
ASCIA CEO

ASCIA Oral Immunotherapy (OIT) for Food Allergy Update

3 December 2020

Oral immunotherapy (OIT) is a potential treatment for food allergy. It involves giving gradually increasing amounts of food allergen under medical supervision and continued daily consumption of the food allergen. If the goal of desensitisation is reached, there is a temporary increase in the amount of food allergen that can be consumed before an allergic reaction occurs.

Food allergy OIT is an emerging treatment, and there are currently several clinical trials of OIT and other treatments for food allergy underway in Australia and other countries.

ASCIA information on OIT for food allergy www.allergy.org.au/patients/allergy-treatment/oral-immunotherapy-for-food-allergy has been updated to include the following new information.

Considerations prior to commencing a food allergy OIT clinical trial

Food allergy OIT should be given in a consistent way, to maximise its chances of effectiveness and minimise the risk of side effects. Therefore, being in a food allergy OIT clinical trial may present difficulties for people who plan to go on active holidays, overnight excursions, camps, or board overnight at school. There will also be some inconveniences, potential lifestyle disruptions and restrictions while being in a food allergy OIT clinical trial that need to be carefully considered.

Each dose of OIT carries a risk of an allergic reaction, including anaphylaxis, so taking on responsibility for dosing a student taking food allergy OIT cannot be expected of every school. When students are on overnight school excursions or camps, there can be changes in sleep patterns, busy activity schedules, lower ratios of carers to students and remote or unfamiliar locations. These are all factors that can increase the risk of an allergic reaction with a dose of food allergy OIT. There also increased risks of an allergic reaction for a person on OIT who has an infection, poorly controlled asthma or allergic rhinitis.

Therefore, people on food allergy OIT may need to choose between attending school activities and interrupting OIT, depending on discussions with schools and camps or other factors. These factors should also be considered for people going on active holidays or other activities with their family or friends.

There are added risks when food allergy OIT is recommenced after a long interruption. For this reason, the OIT clinical trial doctor or treating clinical immunology/allergy specialist may recommend that this occurs in a supervised medical setting, in a similar way to a food allergen challenge. There are often long waiting times to access food allergen challenges outside of research settings. Therefore, a treating clinical immunology/allergy specialist may not be able to offer rapid access to a suitable setting for recommencing food allergy OIT when interruptions occur.

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AIFA Research Grants 2020

1 December 2020

It is a pleasure to announce that the Allergy and Immunology Foundation of Australasia (AIFA) has awarded $110,000 in grants to five outstanding allergy and immunology research projects in 2020.  

To read more about the projects listed below go to www.allergyimmunology.org.au/projects

AIFA Food Allergy Research Grant of $40,000: Awarded to A/Prof Kirsten Perrett for testing the effectiveness of oral immunotherapy (OIT) for young children with nut allergy.

AIFA Food Allergy Research Grant of $10,000 (supported by DBV Technologies): Awarded to Dr Vicki McWilliam, who aims to prevent the development of long-term cow’s milk allergy in children.

AIFA Allergy/Immunology Research Grant $30,000: Awarded to Dr Catarina Almeida and Dr Jason Trubiano for a study of “Natural Killer T Cells” to improve current tests for drug allergy, policy for drug administration, and the development of new immune-based therapies.

AIFA Primary Immunodeficiencies Clinical Research Grant of $15,000 (supported by CSL Behring): Awarded to Dr Celina Jin, who will lead a multi-centre trial evaluating typhoid Vi-polysaccharide vaccine responses in patients with specific antibody deficiency.

AIFA Hereditary Angioedema (HAE) Clinical Research Grant of $15,000 (supported by CSL Behring): Awarded to Dr William Smith, who will conduct a state-wide survey of patients with HAE in South Australia. This will determine the prevalence of HAE as well as severity, impact on quality of life, and unmet needs, particularly in the prevention of angioedema attacks.

Congratulations to the AIFA grant recipients and thank you to our generous donors and sponsors for making these grants possible.

Thank you also to our expert grant selection panel, led by Dr Melanie Wong, who have volunteered their time in an extremely busy and challenging year.

AIFA has awarded research grants to 18 projects since 2015, but there are many projects with great potential that still require funding, so we are now seeking support for AIFA grants in 2021.

To donate to AIFA go to www.allergyimmunology.org.au/donate

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