The constant influx of information in today’s world makes it challenging for parents to decide the best healthcare choices for their children. However, with the recent progress in preventing severe Respiratory Syncytial virus (RSV) in infants, the process has become much simpler and manageable.
This year symbolizes a significant step towards shielding all infants from RSV, the primary cause of hospitalization amongst infants in the U.S. Now, vaccination for expectant mothers during pregnancy and an RSV antibody for newborns are available to the public.
RSV is responsible for hospitalizing between 58,000 to 80,000 children under the age of five in the U.S. each year. Just last year, the virus affected many across the nation, leading to overcrowded hospitals with babies and young children suffering from the disease.
With the introduction of these preventative measures, we can expect a decrease in hospital surge during an RSV outbreak similar to the one witnessed in 2022. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend that all newborns receive an RSV vaccine or an RSV antibody. However, most infants will not require both.
As these vaccines and antibodies become readily available in pharmacies and medical offices, all current and potential parents should be aware of these options. This knowledge will enable them to make informed choices to protect their infants from severe RSV, especially during the upcoming fall and winter seasons.
RSV Vaccination During Pregnancy
The CDC recommends an RSV vaccine for pregnant women to protect newborns from severe RSV. This vaccine, approved by the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) in August 2023, has specific recommendations.
Doctors advise receiving a single dose of the RSV vaccine between the 32nd and 36th weeks of pregnancy. This vaccine is available from September to January in most parts of the U.S. However, the timing may differ in locations like some territories, Hawaii, and Alaska where the RSV season may vary.
For those whose advanced stages of pregnancy do not overlap with this timeframe or those who could not receive the vaccine during pregnancy, an RSV antibody is available for their newborns post-birth. The majority of infants will require either the RSV vaccine during the mother’s pregnancy or the RSV antibody after birth, but typically not both. Therefore, discussing with a healthcare provider will help you decide the most suitable option.
RSV Antibody for Babies and Young Children
Similarly to the newly recommended RSV vaccine during pregnancy, an RSV antibody, known as nirsevimab (Beyfortus), is also available to protect babies and certain toddlers from severe RSV infection.
If a mother received the RSV vaccine during her pregnancy, her baby will most likely not require the RSV antibody. However, it's a good idea to check this with a healthcare practitioner.
For babies younger than 8 months old born during or entering their first RSV season and did not receive the RSV vaccine during pregnancy, doctors advise one dose of nirsevimab. In specific situations and upon a healthcare provider's recommendations, some babies may receive nirsevimab even if their mothers received the RSV vaccine.
The RSV antibody is also advised for babies and toddlers aged 8 to 19 months at a higher risk of RSV and entering their second RSV season. As the RSV season approaches, parents should consider these recommendations and take active measures to protect their children from this prevalent respiratory virus.
RSV season typically commences in the fall and peaks during winter. Thus, parents should take advantage of the new RSV immunizations to protect their babies from contracting a severe case of the virus that may lead to hospitalization.
If you have any questions about RSV or these newly available preventive measures, reach out to your healthcare provider. They can guide you in potecting your little one from becoming seriously ill due to this virus.