The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recommended infants under eight months old get vaccinated for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) starting in the fall. The disease is currently the “leading cause of hospitalization among infants in the U.S.” Yearly, 58,000 to 80,000 children under 5 years of age, most of whom are infants, are hospitalized because of RSV. Some 100 to 300 children die from the disease every year.
The new vaccine, called nirsevimab, was approved in July. It is an antibody vaccine, which varies from typical vaccines. Regular vaccines “train the body’s own immune defenses against the virus,” while an antibody vaccine “works to directly fend off the virus in the body,” CBS News reported. “This new RSV immunization provides parents with a powerful tool to protect their children against the threat of RSV,” said CDC director Mandy Cohen. “RSV is the leading cause of hospitalizations for infants and older babies at higher risk and today we have taken an important step to make this life saving product available.”
Almost all children will contract RSV by their second birthday, and the risk spikes every year in the winter and early spring months. The virus causes flu-like symptoms including fever, cough and runny nose. In children under three, “the illness may move into the lungs and cause coughing and wheezing,” and in some cases “the infection turns to a severe respiratory disease,” according to Cedars-Sinai. “I think that we will look back on this, in a short period of time, and see what a major impact this vote has had on the health and wellbeing of children,” Dr. José Romero, director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, said in a meeting for the CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, which endorsed giving the vaccine.