Respiratory Syncytial Virus, or RSV, sickens young children and worries their parents each year as the weather turns cold and the virus spreads. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that each year RSV leads to up to 80,000 hospitalizations and as many as 300 deaths in children aged five and younger. Last year, RSV was one of the three viruses making up what many called the “Tripledemic” along with COVID and the flu. The recent approval of the first RSV vaccine, though, has given both parents and health care providers hope.
Earlier this month the Food and Drug Administration approved the first ever vaccine for RSV. This vaccine is for older adults, who are also highly susceptible to the virus. The new vaccine, called Arexvy, was developed by GSK, formerly known as GlaxoSmithKline. It was approved for adults 60 and older and was 82% effective at preventing lower respiratory tract illness caused by RSV, according to trial data. It was also 94% effective in those who had at least one underlying medical condition.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIH), issued a news release, praising the approval. “Today, we celebrate the NIAID scientists and their collaborators who applied evolving technologies over many years to better understand the basic science of RSV and lay the groundwork for a vaccine to prevent severe disease. This monumental effort and the dedication of clinical trial volunteers, research staff and others working in collaboration with academic partners and the pharmaceutical industry will no doubt prevent thousands of elderly people from being hospitalized and dying from RSV infection each year.”
Additional Vaccines on Their Way
This new vaccine brings hope that vaccines for other vulnerable populations, including young children will soon be available. According to a report in Axios, this breakthrough caused a race for RSV vaccines to ensue.
Tomorrow, FDA advisors will weigh whether it’s safe to protect infants against the respiratory virus by giving pregnant people an experimental Pfizer shot. According to Axios’ Oriana González, “The appeal of a maternal vaccine like the one being debated tomorrow is the way it would create neutralizing antibodies in pregnant women that can be transferred to infants in the womb.But there are health risks, including preterm births. And safety concerns led GlaxoSmithKline to halt a trial of its RSV shot last year.”
The agency is will make a decision on whether to approve the shot in August before RSV season in the fall. If approved, Pfizer’s vaccine would become the world’s first vaccine that protects infants against RSV.