NSW Farmers is calling for the New South Wales to tackle the scourge of Q fever in agricultural communities through investment in grants to support Q fever clinics, raised awareness of the disease and farm planning guides about the purpose of vaccination.
Q fever continues to be a major concern for agricultural industries and the communities that support them. Farmers, their families, and communities at risk of Q fever still report issues with the affordability and accessibility of the Q fever vaccine in regional areas. NSW Farmers is calling for government investment into protecting against this disease, which disproportionately affects people in rural areas and animal industries.
Community Q fever clinic grants
Some rural GP practices in areas such as Guyra and Coonamble have developed Q fever clinics in partnership with other organisations including NSW Farmers’ branches and the Red Cross. This is a positive step toward increasing vaccination levels but has so far seen limited uptake. This is further exacerbated as community groups and GPs are often unsure about how to secure funding for clinics.
Clinics will generally reduce the cost of testing and vaccination by providing guarantee of demand for a practice, allowing the practice to match their stocks of the vaccine and testing material to this demand. In a clinic situation, multiple patients can be tested from one vial of the Q-VAX skin test. Outside of a clinic, some GPs will require a patient to cover the cost of a whole Q-VAX skin test vial if it cannot be used for other patients during the safe storage period of six hours. A new human vaccine is currently in development, but greater protections for the community are required before the new vaccine is commercialised.
The development of a grant program, through which local communities or medical practices can apply for co-funding for Q fever clinics, would assist in decreasing costs for patients and give practices certainty when considering running a clinic. Community groups could also offer in-kind services for advertising and coordination.
Continuation of the Q fever awareness program
Continuation of the Q fever awareness program is essential to track the effectiveness of public awareness leading to an increase in vaccination levels and, ultimately, reducing infection notifications. NSW Farmers requests a continuation of the Q fever awareness program to ensure it is effectively targeted to people at risk.
Given an initial funding commitment of $200,000 for a Q fever awareness program in 2018, we propose the government commit to extending the program at a cost of $150,000 per annum to allow for effective face-to-face engagement with farmers and others at risk of Q fever, as well as monitoring effectiveness. NSW Farmers can facilitate attendance for NSW Health staff at local branch meetings and assist with identifying opportunities for community engagement across the state.
Q fever farm planning guide
NSW Farmers anticipates that the current Q fever awareness program is likely to increase the community’s awareness of protecting against Q fever through vaccination and on-farm risk management.
A number of agricultural development applications in various states have been rejected or overturned on the grounds of perceptions about an unacceptable Q fever risk to surrounding communities. Where proposals for new farms, feedlots, saleyards or abattoirs are required to go through a development application, there is a lack of public information on how to meet community health concerns. NSW Farmers suggests that NSW Health, SafeWork, DPI, and the NSW Department of Planning and Environment develop a guide for applicants to minimise risk and meet planning requirements. This could be incorporated into relevant planning guidelines, including the proposed Regional Planning Act.