The discovery of vaccinating moms-to-be being more than 80% effective at preventing severe cases of RSV in their newborn babies will not help this year’s early RSV surge that is crowding children’s hospitals, but doctors are hopeful as it raises the prospect that one or more vaccines might become available before next fall’s respiratory virus season.
“It’s really encouraging to see the movement that they’ve made in this progress,” said OhioHealth family and sports medicine physician Dr. Ben Bring. “Historically, really the only fight against RSV that we’ve had is a monoclonal antibody called Synagis, which is a once a month injection for those kids that are higher risk.”
In addition to the rate of preventing severe illness within the first 90 days of life, Pfizer researchers found the vaccine was 69% effective against serious illness and there were no signs of safety problems in mothers nor their babies at age 6 months.
“If the FDA and the CDC come together and say, ‘yes, these are safe and effective,’ absolutely, I could see [the vaccine being available for widespread use next year],” Dr. Bring said.
The CDC defines RSV as a “common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.” Symptoms usually show up four to six days after infection and can include runny nose, loss of appetite, coughing and sneezing, fever and wheezing. But for young patients, RSV can be particularly severe.
“It’s one of the leading causes of hospitalization and kids, especially those younger than six months, and especially newborns that are premature,” said Dr. Bring. “In kids, usually we’ll see a condition called bronchiolitis, where the little airways in the pulmonary airways get blocked up. And it can be really inflammatory and can cause a lot of respiratory difficulty for these kids.”
To help keep the virus from spreading as best as possible, Dr. Bring says to stay home and keep your kids at home if they’re sick and wash your hands frequently.
“And wearing facemasks can be really effective here,” he added. “RSV can be transmitted through respiratory secretions, so if you cough or you sneeze on a desk, and then someone touches it and then touches their mucous membranes.”
Dr. Bring also emphasized that if you notice your child, especially if they are under 6 months old, is having trouble breathing, get them to their doctor immediately.
Watch the full interview with Dr. Ben Bring in the video player below.