RSV Vaccine (Antibody Injection): Who Should Get It and Why?
October 03, 2023
Each cold and flu season, children’s hospitals across the country are filled with children suffering from respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). But a new preventative measure may make this season less stressful for parents and caregivers.
Commonly referred to as an “RSV vaccine”, a new antibody injection (called nirsevimab) was recently approved by the Federal Drug Administration, and can help reduce severe cases and hospitalization for infants and toddlers.
Moses Olorunnisola, M.D., a pediatrician with Hackensack Meridian Medical Group, explains what the new injection means, who should get it and why.
RSV Antibody Injection vs. Vaccine
Although people have been using the term “RSV vaccine”, this new tool is actually not a vaccine, but as a monoclonal antibody.
“Vaccines are teachers. They train the body to produce the antibodies needed to fight a virus,” Dr. Olorunnisola says. “In contrast, this antibody injection doesn’t teach your body how to make antibodies; it provides the antibodies needed to fight the virus.”
Think of your body as a village:
- Vaccines train the villagers how to fight for themselves.
- Antibody injections are like hired guards called in to protect the village.
Who Should Get the RSV Antibody Injection?
In late October, the CDC issued a health alert detailing limited availability for the new RSV antibody developed for infants and has recommended that only infants who are at the highest risk for severe RSV get the injection.
Those most at-risk would include:
- Those under 6 months old
- Those with underlying medical conditions, like premature birth (before 29 weeks), severe lung conditions like cystic fibrosis, or pulmonary abnormalities (making it difficult to clear secretions)
“For those who are pregnant, ask your doctor about receiving the RSV vaccine for adults (Abrysvo, Pfizer),” says Dr. Olorunnisola. “Getting the RSV vaccine during pregnancy can provide a level of protection for your child after birth.”
Why Is the RSV Antibody so Important?
While RSV is mild for many people, Dr. Olorunnisola provides several reasons why you should get your child the injection, if they are at high risk for severe RSV:
- Reduces severity. Approximately 100–300 children die from RSV every year.The antibody helps protect your child from experiencing complications due to severe RSV.
- Reduces hospital burden. The health care system has been overtaxed within the last few years largely due to COVID-19. The antibody will help reduce the number of hospitalizations as a result of RSV, which will prevent hospital staff and resources from being spread too thin. “That not only increases positive outcomes for RSV patients, but also for others who may require hospitalization,” Dr. Olorunnisola says.
- Reduces weight loss. Infants who experience severe cases of RSV may not be able to feed properly, leading to weight loss. “That can be dangerous particularly for newborns,” Dr. Olorunnisola says.
- Increases immunity. RSV is extremely contagious, making it nearly impossible to avoid spread. The antibody will help children fight the virus if they get it.
“Currently, there are no widely available drugs to treat RSV beyond controlling the fever and managing any respiratory symptoms, so reducing the severity and length of the illness is key,” Dr. Olorunnisola says. “The RSV antibody is only a one-time injection for most children. It’s a small thing that can make a huge difference.”
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our source: Moses Olorunnisola, M.D.
- To make an appointment with a pediatrician near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn more about our pediatric care.
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.