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RSV Vaccine: Prioritizing Adults Over 60 and Expecting Mothers

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Learn more about the RSV vaccine

RSV Prevention

Respiratory Syncytial Virus

Flu and COVID-19 are the respiratory viruses we hear about the most, but if you're 60 or older or a new or expecting parent, you should also be aware of another highly contagious bug that circulates in the fall and winter: respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).

In adults, RSV can cause one of those colds that lasts for weeks and is unpleasant. But in babies and older adults, it can cause an even more severe illness, sometimes life-threatening. The good news is that this respiratory season, there are new tools to protect these more vulnerable individuals.

What is the RSV vaccine?

This past summer, two RSV vaccines, Arexvy and Abrysvo, obtained approval for usage among older adults. Both of these vaccines work by triggering a protective immune response against RSV. Clinical studies have shown that these vaccines lower the risk of serious complications from RSV by more than 80%.

Arexvy and Abrysvo are administered as single-dose injections. Although their compositions exhibit slight variations, the CDC does not express a preference, recommending that eligible adults receive "whichever vaccine is available."

Side effects associated with RSV vaccines:

  • Pain at the injection site
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle and joint soreness, along with stiffness and pain
  • Headache
Additionally, the FDA recently sanctioned the use of the Abrysvo RSV vaccine for pregnant individuals. Administered in late pregnancy, it aims to prevent RSV in newborns by inducing the production of protective antibodies passed from mother to infant before birth.

Who is eligible for the RSV vaccine?

RSV can induce respiratory symptoms in individuals of all age groups. However, the present preventive measures against its most severe complications are currently accessible exclusively to those in the highest-risk categories, namely babies and older adults.
Eligibility for the Arexvy RSV vaccine includes:
  • All adults aged 60 and above
Abrysvo RSV vaccine eligibility includes:
  • All adults aged 60 and above
  • Pregnant women, administered between 32 to 36 weeks of gestation to transfer protective antibodies from the mother to the newborn before birth

Why older adults and expecting parents should take RSV vaccination seriously?

From flu shots to COVID boosters and beyond, you may ask if the RSV vaccine is necessary. If you qualify, the answer is a resounding "Yes." RSV causes over 60,000 hospitalizations and kills over 6,000 people aged 65 and over each year, according to the CDC.
While RSV normally causes mild sickness in most adults, it can progress to pneumonia and severe inflammation in the lower respiratory tract in older adults, which can be life-threatening. Adults with compromised immune systems or chronic health issues, such as lung disease or heart illness, are at a higher risk of developing these consequences.
The most susceptible population, infants, is also at risk, as RSV is the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the United States, according to the CDC. It can cause a severe cold in young children, but the danger is greatest during a child's first year of life, when it can cause life-threatening lower respiratory tract disease.
With improved preventive measures in place to battle severe sickness, it's critical for all eligible people and expecting or new parents to consider RSV vaccination or immunization and to seek help from their healthcare professional if they have any remaining questions.
Questions & answers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Runny nose
  • Decrease in appetite
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Fever
  • Wheezing

RSV can also worsen serious health conditions, including:

  • Asthma
  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) — a chronic lung disease that makes it hard to breathe
  • Congestive heart failure — a condition when the heart can’t pump enough blood and oxygen through the body

There are two RSV vaccines available in the United States and both have shown to be very effective in preventing RSV.

For those ages 60 and older, especially if they have chronic medical conditions or live in nursing homes or long-term care facilities, an RSV vaccine should be considered, using shared clinical decision making. This means that people may receive a vaccine based on discussions with their healthcare provider or pharmacist about whether RSV vaccination is right for them.

The RSV vaccine is also recommended for pregnant individuals ages 18 and older, during weeks 32 to 36 of pregnancy using seasonal administration, to prevent RSV infection in their newborns. In most of the United States vaccine administration should be between September and January, which coincides with the time of year when RSV infections tend to be the most common.

  • Anyone who has ever had a life-threatening allergic reaction to any component of the vaccine. Tell your healthcare provider or pharmacist if you have any severe allergies.
  • Anyone who is moderately or severely ill should wait until they recover before getting the vaccine.

Common side effects include injection site pain, redness and swelling, fatigue, muscle pain, and headache, and nausea.

Learn more about the RSV vaccine:

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