RSV season is ramping up and health care providers are hopeful that a new shot will help protect young children from the virus.
A Eugene family experienced RSV last year when their baby went from healthy to being hospitalized just two days later.
“They had to give her an IV because she couldn’t swallow,” says Angela Albin, recalling when her daughter, Evie, fell ill. “She was breathing 80 breaths per minutes. They just kept cranking up the oxygen and she just kept getting worse.”
Evie tested positive for respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV. Every breath she took was a struggle, and she was hospitalized for nearly a week.
Evie’s pediatrician, Dr. Pilar Bradshaw, says for many kids, RSV is like a mild cold, but for babies and infants, the virus can be very dangerous. Every year there are about 2.6 million cases of RSV in infants, and approximately 600,000 of those cases require medical attention.
“RSV is actually the number one cause of hospitalizations for babies in the United States,” she says.
Earlier this year, the FDA approved what’s being called a game-changing antibody called Beyfortus, which helps protect against RSV.
Beyfortus is a monoclonal antibody treatment, not a traditional vaccine like the Pfizer shot, Dr. Bradshaw says. The protection it provides is passive immunity, similar to the protection babies get from nursing. It lasts about five months, long enough to get babies past their first RSV season when they’re at highest risk.
“This monoclonal antibody goes in and blocks the RSV from getting into the lining of your baby’s respiratory system,” Dr. Bradshaw says. “In studies that have been done, it decreased hospitalizations by 75%. It was shown to be incredibly safe and incredibly effective.”
The new RSV shot was not available when Evie got sick last year, but her mom Angela encourages families with babies to talk with their doctor about the benefits of Beyfortus.
“If we could have given her a vaccine and prevented any of the days we were in the hospital, I would have done it,” she says.
Before Evie got sick, Angela didn’t realize how serious RSV can be. “When I Googled, it said most kids are better in 3-5 days,” she says. “And so, I thought, ‘Oh, we’ve been through 3-5 day colds.’ And this was nothing like that.”
Evie is now more susceptible to respiratory viruses, and the family keeps an inhaler on hand, just in case it’s needed.
The new RSV shot is recommended for babies 8 months and younger and adults 60 and older—another group that is at higher risk for developing complications from the virus.
What to know about the RSV vaccine:
- Babies under 8 months and older infants at risk of severe RSV: A new shot, nirsevimab (Beyfortus), provides antibodies that protect against RSV for about five months.
- If you’re pregnant: One vaccine (Abrysvo) is approved at 32 weeks to 36 weeks of pregnancy. Having this shot during pregnancy protects infants during the first six months of life.
- If you’re older than 60: Two vaccines (Arexvy and Abrysvo) are approved. Ask your health provider if you should consider getting one.