The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is backing a new vaccine designed to prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in children. By a unanimous vote, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended administering the drug Nirsevimab to children. The committee likewise voted to include the drug in the federal Vaccines for Children (VFC) program.
Pediatrician Pablo J. Sanchez said, “I just think this is absolutely great and exciting news. It’s a product that we’ve been eagerly awaiting.”
In July, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Nirsevimab for treating RSV in small children. It describes the virus as one that causes acute respiratory infection in people of all ages. While its symptoms are usually mild, it can develop into more severe conditions such as pneumonia and bronchiolitis in young children.
RSV is a seasonal virus that starts to make an appearance in the fall and continues into winter. Around 1% to 3% of American children are hospitalized yearly after contracting the disease, which can spread quickly through person-to-person contact.
Globally, the virus kills around 100,000 children every year. In 2022, the medical journal The Lancet undertook the first worldwide study into RSV. It found that of the 100,000 deaths, around 45,000 involved children younger than six months old. Interestingly, the study warned that due to measures taken during the global coronavirus pandemic, such as masks and lockdowns, children are likely to be at greater risk of contracting RSV in the near future because their natural immunity has been compromised.
A sticking point with doctors has been the price of the RSV vaccine. Producers AstraZeneca and Sanofi estimate that a shot will cost $495, which physicians say is too high. Dr. Sarah Long of the Drexel University College of Medicine said she was extraordinarily disappointed, while Dr. Katherine Poehling from Wake Forest School of Medicine said, “We do understand that the companies need to make their profit, but I am worried about equity.”