Keeping up with medical recommendations for your child's health in our information-saturated world can be a daunting task. Recent advancements for reducing the risk of severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants, a leading cause of infant hospitalizations in the United States, requires you to be more informed than ever. As this year unveils new methods of preventing severe RSV, let's explore them further.
The scale of RSV's impact is significant. Every year, between 58,000 and 80,000 children under the age of five end up getting hospitalized due to RSV in the U.S. alone. This figure underscores how widespread the virus was last year and the pressure it put on hospitals, packed with infants and young children seeking treatment.
The good news is, the path to prevention has improved. There's an RSV vaccine for pregnant women and an RSV antibody for babies born to mothers who did not receive the vaccine. These developments provide opportunities to prevent hospital influx related to RSV seen recently.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) endorses both new RSV immunizations for babies. Parents can breathe a little easier knowing that while both therapies are recommended, most infants will not require dual protection. It primarily hinges on getting either vaccine during pregnancy or antibody after birth.
How The RSV Vaccine Plays out During Pregnancy
The CDC's official stance pushes for an RSV vaccine during pregnancy. This specific recommendation is based on the FDA-approved vaccine from August 2023, designed explicitly to prevent severe RSV in newborns. A woman can receive a single dose of the RSV vaccine between weeks 32 and 36 of her pregnancy.
Although, keep in mind the RSV vaccine's availability changes depending on your region. In the U.S., the vaccine typically becomes available from September through January; however, the timing may vary in some areas such as Hawaii, other territories, and Alaska.
If you're pregnant and the 32 to 36 weeks timeline does not align with the vaccine’s availability, or for some other reason, you do not get vaccinated, an RSV antibody can be given to your baby after birth.
In most cases, a baby will only require protection through the RSV vaccine given to their mother during pregnancy or the RSV antibody administered post-birth. Discuss with your health care provider to determine the best choice for you and your newborn.
RSV Antibody Use for Babies and Young Children
Apart from the RSV vaccine for pregnant women, the CDC additionally recommends a new RSV antibody named nirsevimab (Beyfortus). This antibody can provide protection against severe RSV for newborns and certain toddlers.
If you've received the RSV vaccine during pregnancy, your child will likely not need the RSV antibody. However, it's best to ask your healthcare professional for reassurance.
For those who did not receive the RSV vaccine during pregnancy, a dose of nirsevimab is recommended for babies under eight months old, experiencing their first RSV season. Keep in mind; there are rare instances where a health care provider might suggest nirsevimab, even if the mother was vaccinated.
For toddlers aged eight to nineteen months who are at a higher risk of RSV and are entering their second RSV season, a dose of nirsevimab is also recommended. It's essential to remember these immunization recommendations to keep severe RSV away from your child.
Onset of the RSV Season
The upcoming RSV season typically starts during fall and reaches its peak during winter. The arrival of this new virus season means parents should proactively consider how to protect their babies and toddlers. The knowledge of the timing of the RSV season is an important tool in combating the virus, especially for new parents.
There are now two potential defenses in preventing a severe case of RSV: safeguarding pregnant mothers with an RSV vaccine and shielding newborns with an antibody. Using either of these methods could prevent a potential hospital stay for your child.
Note that the introduction of this new vaccine and antibody does not negate the importance of discussing with your healthcare provider. If you have any questions about RSV or are unsure about the best way to prevent severe RSV in your child, always consult with a healthcare professional.
These preventive measures allow parents to take control of their child's health against the threat of RSV. The world is changing rapidly, and we need to keep up with the pace. With the right knowledge and action, we can protect our precious ones from falling prey to such severe respiratory diseases.