What Parents Should Know About RSV Prevention for Infants
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a common and potentially dangerous virus that affects almost all infants and young children before the age of two. While children can get RSV at any time of the year, the typical RSV season is similar to flu. In recent years, what has been known as a “Tripledemic” (Flu, RSV and COVID-19 surges), RSV has been a major contributor to a rise in hospitalizations among young children. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year RSV infections result in 80,000 hospitalizations and up to 300 deaths in children under five. However, now with breakthroughs in medication development, there is hope for a new tool in the fight against RSV for infants younger than 19 months of age.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), an immunization for all infants younger than eight months of age who are born during—or are entering—their first Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) season. Recent results published in the New England Journal of Medicine from a Phase 3 clinical trial, showed that healthy infants who received Nirsevimab were 74.5 percent less likely to experience an RSV infection that needed medical care than those who received a placebo.
“Nirsevimab has the potential to offer RSV protection for infants, which would be a paradigm shift in the approach to this disease,” said site Principal Investigator and co-author William Muller, MD, PhD, Scientific Director of Clinical and Community Trials at Stanley Manne Children's Research Institute at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine.
Who should get Nirsevimab?
All infants who are eight months or younger and are entering their first RSV season. For infants born during RSV season, ideally, the medication should be administered within one week after birth. The medication is also recommended for infants (8-19 months of age) at high risk for severe RSV and who are entering their second RSV season.
Nirsevimab is given via a shot in the thigh. Side effects during the clinical trial included typical reactions to injections including pain, redness or swelling at the injection site. If you have questions or concerns about nirsevimab for your infant, talk with your primary care physician or pediatrician.
Palivizumab is another RSV antibody offered to children (younger than 24 months) with certain conditions who are at high risk for severe RSV. If you have a child who is immunocompromised or at risk for severe infection, talk to your healthcare provider about what options are best for your child.
How many doses is Nirsevimab?
Nirsevimab is a single-dose medication given once a year (similar to the flu vaccine). The single dose provides protection for the length of the RSV viral season, typically five months.
How does it prevent RSV?
While Nirsevimab is an immunization, it is not a vaccine. It is a premade antibody that can bind to and neutralize RSV. This immunization provides protection for approximately five months during the months that RSV is most common.
Can my baby get the RSV immunization and flu vaccine at the same time?
Yes, if your infant is eligible for both Nirsevimab and flu vaccine. Flu vaccine is administered only to infants 6 months or older while Nirsevimab is recommended for all infants under 8 months, and certain high-risk children aged 8-19 months. Additionally, families should consider a COVID-19 vaccine or booster for their infants and children. Consult with your healthcare provider on what immunizations are best for your child.
Where can I get the Nirsevimab?
Talk to your healthcare provider about when and where to get the vaccine for your infant. RSV spreads similarly the way colds do- through droplets from an individual’s mouth and nose. We can all help prevent the spread of RSV by washing hands frequently, staying home from work and school when sick and covering your mouth and nose when coughing and sneezing.
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