Recommendations for a new immunization signal a turning point for families impacted by a common and potentially deadly seasonal virus known as RSV.
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a seasonal annoyance to many. But for vulnerable patients, particularly infants and young children, the virus can be quite serious.
New recommendations combat RSV
Safe and effective vaccines and immunizations to combat RSV infections have long been a focus of clinical research. Now, for the first time, one is available to all infants: nirsevimab, which received FDA approval in July. Now the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices has voted unanimously to recommend the immunization for all infants facing their first RSV season. The committee also voted to recommend a second dose for those with underlying health conditions during their second RSV season.
The committee has also taken steps to ensure that all infants have access to this new immunization by including nirsevimab in the Vaccines for Children program. The immunization, which is a long-acting preventive monoclonal antibody, is the first non-vaccine to make the list. The program employs federal funding to provide vaccines to children whose families may not be able to afford them.
The introduction of a successful RSV immunization stands to not only reduce the incidence of severe RSV disease and related hospitalizations, but also limit the strain that RSV season imposes on health care systems. The CDC committee’s decision will reduce the disease’s impact on infants and children, as well as their families, who bear physical, emotional and financial tolls.
Children are especially susceptible to RSV
RSV is transmitted commonly through close contact and crowded spaces, mostly during the winter months. Children, with their inexperienced immune systems, are particularly susceptible.
Children also have greater risks if infected. Their small airways sometimes cannot accommodate the strong bouts of wheezing, coughing and labored breathing that accompany RSV. This situation can lead to more serious complications, like bronchitis and pneumonia. Each year, the CDC estimates RSV-related infections lead to more than 300 deaths among children under age 5.
Preventive measures, like regular hand washing and avoiding sick people, can reduce children’s risk of RSV and its potentially serious consequences. But broad immunization efforts must also be part of the public health equation.