Local doctors excited about two new RSV vaccines to protect babies

RSV can be deadly to young kids

ROANOKE, Va. – Two new vaccines could save your baby’s life.

RSV can be deadly to young kids. The virus can cause a lower respiratory illness that can be severe in infants. In the U.S. alone, 80,000 children under 5 are hospitalized each year with RSV and several hundred die annually.

New this fall, the FDA just approved a vaccine for pregnant women and another for newborns to protect them from RSV.

Before these vaccines, there really was no protection for young children. Doctors could just treat symptoms if babies got sick. Now, these new vaccines are the first of their kind to prevent severe disease in infants.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is now recommending the new RSV vaccine for all infants under 8 months old and older babies at an increased risk of severe RSV disease.

The vaccine, called Beyfortus, has been shown to reduce the risk of both hospitalizations and healthcare visits for RSV in infants by about 80%.

10 News spoke with Dr. Christopher Pierce, the chair of pediatrics at Carilion Children’s.

He says this vaccine is extremely safe and uses proven technology to target and prevent RSV.

“It’s not just the lives. It’s the number of days in the hospital, it’s the number of days in the intensive care unit. It may be the difference of my child is intubated on a ventilator, on a breathing machine for weeks, versus maybe they’re in the hospital with low oxygen, maybe they’re just at home,” said Pierce.

The other vaccine approved for pregnant women can protect newborns from the virus. A study showed this vaccine was 82% effective at preventing severe cases of RSV during babies’ first three months of life.

The vaccine—given to moms between 32 weeks and 36 weeks of pregnancy—would pass antibodies to the fetus and protect newborns from birth through 6 months of age, which is when babies are most vulnerable.

Dr. Allison Durica, a maternal-fetal medicine specialist at Carilion Clinic’s department of OBGYN, said this vaccine could provide newborns immunity immediately after birth and better protect against mutations in the virus.

“That will hopefully offer some passive protection, passive antibody protection to the baby,” said Durica. “So it would start from the minute that the baby is delivered. And that would be fantastic if we could do that.”

The CDC still needs to evaluate and issue recommendations for this vaccine. An advisory committee is expected to meet next month.

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