New RSV Vaccine Provides Promising Protection in Trials

Pfizer announced today that its new RSV vaccine has been shown to protect infants from developing severe symptoms during their most vulnerable first six months of life.
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profile picture of Wyndi Kappes
Assistant Editor
November 1, 2022
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As RSV cases hit record highs and hospitals are pushed to capacity, finally, good news seems to be on the horizon. The first-ever RSV vaccine may be available to parents as early as fall 2023.

Pfizer announced today that a large international study found giving moms-to-be the new RSV vaccine was nearly 82 percent effective at preventing severe cases of RSV in their babies’ most vulnerable first 90 days of life, and 69.4 percent effective at preventing severe cases in the first six months of life.

Encouragingly, even outside of RSV, Pfizer also said the vaccine was 57 percent effective at preventing lower respiratory tract infections that require doctor visits in baby’s first 90 days.

The results of the trial meet the company’s regulatory success criteria, and Pfizer plans to submit the vaccine to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for approval by the end of 2022. If all goes well, the company believes parents could see RSV vaccines by fall 2023.

RSV typically causes mild, cold-like symptoms among most adults and older children. Still, it can result in severe complications for babies younger than 12 months, as it spreads to the lower respiratory tract, causing pneumonia and bronchiolitis. But mom’s supercharged antibodies may be able to help.

“Moms are always giving their antibodies to their baby,” virologist Kena Swanson, Pfizer’s vice president of viral vaccines, told AP News. “The vaccine just puts them in that much better position to form and pass on RSV-fighting antibodies.”

But the new RSV vaccine won’t just help vulnerable newborns—it could also help protect elderly adults who are also at risk for severe complications. Immunization and new monoclonal antibodies (i.e., human-made proteins that function like antibodies in our immune systems) could help prevent infections in more than three-quarters of the at-risk elderly population.

Other companies outside of Pfizer are also diligently working on RSV vaccinations. In early November, Sanofi and AstraZeneca gained the European Commission’s marketing authorization for their Nirsevimab vaccine, which is currently under review by the FDA as a breakthrough therapy.

Johnson & Johnson, Moderna and GSK have also developed RSV vaccines, particularly for adults 60 and over, which are all either in trials or currently under review by the FDA.

While none of these vaccines are available to the public now, doctors say there is plenty that you can do to prevent your child from contracting RSV.

  • Keep baby away from people with colds. Even if they’re healthy, doctors urge you not to let people kiss baby, as thousands of germs can be transferred this way.
  • Do not share cups and utensils. You never know if you might be harboring the virus without showing symptoms.
  • Wash hands before touching baby. Encourage others to do the same. It’s hard to tell if you or anyone else has inadvertently touched something infected with the virus.
  • Cover coughs and sneezes. Use a tissue (then wash your hands), or cough and sneeze into your sleeve.
  • Keep surfaces clean. Wipe down countertops, tables, doorknobs, toys, bedframes and so on, especially if someone at home is sick.
  • Keep hands off your face. Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth, especially if you haven’t washed your hands.
  • No smoking in the house. Smoking will only make RSV symptoms worse.
  • Keep sick siblings away. If one child develops RSV, a sibling doesn’t necessarily have to get it too. Although it may be hard, separate them whenever one is sick.

Learn more about RSV and the other two respiratory illnesses that make up the “tripledemic” here.

Please note: The Bump and the materials and information it contains are not intended to, and do not constitute, medical or other health advice or diagnosis and should not be used as such. You should always consult with a qualified physician or health professional about your specific circumstances.

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