Promoting Infant Health: A Rise in RSV Prevention Options

The article discusses novel approaches in protecting babies from severe RSV, a leading cause of infant hospitalization in the US, one being an RSV vaccine for pregnant women, the other an RSV antibody administered after birth.

Amid the incessant flow of data in today’s societies, making well-informed choices about your child’s welfare might seem challenging. This makes it crucial to be aware of the most recent guidelines on preventing severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants.

In an unprecedented move this year, there are now strategies in place to shield every child from severe RSV. Formerly accounting for the most cases of infant hospitalizations in the US, this includes an expectant woman’s RSV vaccine during pregnancy and an RSV antibody for babies after they are born.

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RSV has been responsible for the annual hospitalization of between 58,000 and 80,000 children under the age of 5. The virus had a significant impact last year, with hospitals across the country overwhelmed with infants and young children suffering from the virus.

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However, the RSV vaccine and preventative antibody present an opportunity to mitigate the hospital surges experienced in 2022.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) prescribes that all babies receive protection from one of the novel RSV immunizations. Although, most infants will not require both.

As the vaccine and preventative antibody increasingly become available at pharmacies and medical offices, here are the key facts that all current and expectant parents must be informed of. This knowledge will equip you to make wise choices that will shield infants from a severe RSV outbreak during the upcoming fall and winter seasons.

A significant strides in preventing severe RSV in infants is the RSV vaccine during pregnancy. This CDC recommended and Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved method since August 2023, relieves the unborn baby from the risks once born.

Here’s what you should know about receiving an RSV vaccine while pregnant: A single dosage of the RSV vaccine is advised between week 32 and 36 of pregnancy.

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Accessibility for this vaccine ranges from September to January in the majority of the US. However, the timing may differ for locations where the RSV season is atypical, such as in some territories, Hawaii, and Alaska.

If your pregnancy does not fall during these weeks, or an RSV vaccine is not administered during pregnancy, an RSV antibody is available for your infant after birth.

Most infants will likely only require the RSV vaccine given to their mothers during pregnancy or the RSV antibody introduced to them after birth, but not both. Your health care professional can provide you with the best options for you and your child during this RSV season.

Looking beyond the new RSV vaccine recommendations for pregnant women, a new RSV antibody called nirsevimab (Beyfortus) is also available to protect infants and certain toddlers from severe RSV infection.

If the RSV vaccine was administered during your pregnancy, it's unlikely that your baby will require the RSV antibody. However, it is worth discussing this with your practitioner just to make sure.

Under the age of 8 months old, babies that are born during or entering their first RSV season should receive one dosage of nirsevimab, if their mothers did not get the RSV vaccine.

In unique cases where recommended by health care providers, some infants may be given a dosage of nirsevimab even if their mothers had previously received an RSV vaccine.

Notably for babies and toddlers aged between 8 and 19 months who are at a high risk of contracting RSV and entering their next RSV season, one dose is also recommended.

As the RSV season approaches, it's necessary to consider the above-mentioned recommendations and take a proactive stance in protecting infants from this abundant respiratory virus. RSV season usually commences in the fall and peaks during winter.

By benefiting from these new RSV immunizations, we can guard our children from an acute case of the virus, potentially leading to hospitalization.

Remember to consult your health care provider if you have inquiries about RSV or any of these new protective measures to prevent your child from becoming severely ill from the virus.