Finally, A Way to Prevent RSV Hospitalizations in Babies!
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RSV (respiratory syncytial virus) is a very common—but sometimes scary—infection that puts up to 80,000 American children under the age of 5 in the hospital every year. While all little ones are vulnerable to RSV, premature infants, immunocompromised children, and babies under 6 months old are at an especially high risk for RSV complications like pneumonia or bronchiolitis, which can harm their teeny airways. Until recently, the most common ways to protect your child from RSV was to avoid close contact with sick people and diligently wash hands. But now, there’s a new way to shield your baby from RSV: the brand-new FDA-approved RSV shot for infants!
What is the RSV antibody shot?
In July 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Beyfortus (nirsevimab) as the first monoclonal single-shot antibody to help prevent RSV in newborns, babies, and toddlers. The same RSV shot is already approved in Canada, Europe, and the UK. (Learn more about RSV.)
What is the difference between a vaccine and an antibody?
Most vaccines contain a weakened form of the pathogen that directs your immune system to develop antibodies, but the RSV antibody shot is different! Beyfortus sends protective antibodies directly to the bloodstream to boost immunity. Plus, while traditional vaccines can take a few weeks to spur an immune response, a monoclonal antibody shot works almost instantly.
How effective is the RSV shot?
Three separate clinical trials have shown that the RSV antibody reduces the risk of RSV infection between 70% and 75% among infants and children aged 2 and younger. Unlike a lot of vaccines that offer long-term protection, a monoclonal antibody treatment, like the RSV shot, is only effective for a few months. A single dose of Beyfortus has been shown to protect against RSV for about five months, which is usually the length of RSV season.
Who is the new RSV shot for?
Advisers to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) will meet soon to recommend exactly who should get this vaccine, but right now, it looks like the RSV shot will be recommended for all newborns and babies who are entering their first RSV season. (RSV season starts in the fall, peaks in the winter, and drags on to early spring.)
The RSV shot will also likely be recommended for tots up to age 2 who are extra-vulnerable to severe RSV infection, such as children with long-term breathing and lung problems or those with congenital heart disease. These children up to 2 years old can receive a second dose to protect them during their second RSV season.
Is the new RSV antibody shot safe?
All research points to yes! Most common side effects are mild, like a possible rash and injection site reactions. That said, doctors need to exercise caution before administering Beyfortus to little ones with bleeding disorders like hemophilia. And anyone with a history of serious reactions to any of Beyfortus’ active ingredients should skip the shot. Don’t hesitate to talk to your pediatrician if you have any questions!
When will the RSV shot be available?
It’s thought that the RSV antibody shot will become available in the fall—which lines up with the start of RSV season!
Is there an RSV vaccine for adults?
Yes! In recent months, the FDA has approved two RSV vaccines to protect adults 60 and older from the virus. This is very important since between 60,000 and 160,000 older Americans are hospitalized with RSV every year—and up to 10,000 die. Plus, when Grandma or Grandpa get their RSV shot, they’re not only helping to keep themselves safe, they’re helping to prevent their grandbabies from being exposed to RSV, too. The FDA is also considering an RSV vaccine for pregnant folks that’s meant to protect infants from the virus for about the first 6 months of the baby’s life.
Bottom Line on the RSV Shot
For most toddlers and older kids, RSV is not a big deal. The standard runny nose, cough, and fever is nothing that some rest, fluids, and TLC can’t take care of. However, RSV is no joke for many babies, especially premature infants, babies under 6 months, and those with certain medical conditions. For vulnerable kids, RSV can get worse—and dangerous—very fast, causing serious lung infections, which can hinder breathing and cause hospitalization. For others, RSV irritates the lungs so much that their chesty cough can linger for many months.
Now that there’s a very effective and safe way to shield your baby from this type of sickness, I strongly urge parents to get their little ones protected!
You May Also Be Interested In…
- Your Cold, Flu, and RSV Toolkit for Babies
- Vaccine Guide and Baby Immunization Schedule
- The Danger of Antibiotic Overuse—and What Parents Can Do
- How to Help Toddlers Deal With Shots
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Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.