About the Q fever vaccine

The Q fever vaccine is normally only given to adults, but can occasionally be warranted in persons under 15 years of age if they are at high risk of the disease.  

Because the vaccine has more side effects in people who have already had the Q fever disease – or vaccination – you will need a blood test and skin test to determine whether it’s safe for you to have the vaccine. This makes getting the Q fever vaccine a complicated process.

Before vaccination, you must have:

  • A blood test
  • A skin test
  • A detailed history

If one of these tests is positive, it means you would probably react badly to the vaccine. Note that the blood test and skin test need to be done on the same day.

You’ll then need to return to the same doctor 7 days later to have the skin test read. While reading the blood test is easy (as the result is there in black and white), reading the skin test is not straightforward. Even just preparing the skin test solution is a bit fiddly as you have to get the dilutions spot on. You need experience and training to get it right.

If both tests are negative, you can move on to be vaccinated. It then takes about 2 weeks for the vaccine to become effective. This means vaccinated people should not put themselves at risk (e.g. by visiting an abattoir) until 2 weeks after the vaccination. The vaccination is effective however, and lasts for life.

Each individual should discuss their particular situation at the time of screening.

The Q fever register

Once you’ve had the vaccine we recommend you opt to be placed on the Australian Q Fever Register, which holds a copy of all the Q fever vaccination records of those who wish to be included.

You will receive a card documenting your Q fever vaccination status, which is often requested before you can enter a workplace where there is a risk of Q fever.

Side effects of the Q fever vaccine

Up to half of those people who are vaccinated will have a sore arm for a few days, while about one in ten will develop general symptoms such as a headache, fever, chills and minor sweating.

A strange effect that is quite rare occurs in some people who have very little effect immediately after vaccination. They notice the injection site becomes hard and tender about 1-8 months after the vaccination. The site of the original skin test may also become positive. These lumps gradually shrink and disappear without treatment. This is more common in women, and is a result of a late developing immune response.

If you have any doubt about side effects, contact the doctor who gave you the Q fever vaccine.

Where to get the Q fever vaccine

Not all doctors can give Q fever vaccination as it requires specialised expertise and complicated pre-vaccination screening. Group vaccination is advisable to keep costs down.

What happens if you have the Q fever vaccine more than once?

The effect is unpredictable, but some people will get a hypersensitivity reaction to the second dose of the vaccine which may cause severe swelling, redness or even ulceration at the injection site. They may also become sick from the reaction since their immune system attacks the vaccine very vigorously.

The costs of Q fever protection

The approximate cost for blood and skin testing, medical consultations and the vaccine is about $380-$420 over two visits.

The consultation to have a Q fever vaccine is not covered by Medicare if you have a job where you will be at risk of Q fever (“employed in an industrial undertaking and that service is rendered for the purposes related to the operation of the undertaking”).

Further Medicare eligibility information

Medicare benefits are not payable where:

(a) The service is rendered by or on behalf of, or under an arrangement with the Australian Government, a State or Territory, a local government body, or an authority established under Commonwealth, State or Territory law;

(b) The medical expenses are incurred by the employer of the person to whom the service is rendered;

(c) The person to whom the service is rendered is employed in an industrial undertaking and that service is rendered for the purposes related to the operation of the undertaking;

(d) The service is a health screening service; or

(e) The service is a pre-employment screening service.

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