MURRAY, Utah (Good Things Utah) – A new RSV immunization for babies is being called a breakthrough in pediatric infectious disease prevention that could save hundreds of babies from a hospital stay as early as this fall.

In mid-July, the FDA approved the medication Nirsevimab, sold under the brand name Beyfortus, to help prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in infants and toddlers. Manufacturer Sanofi and AstraZeneca expect the shots to available this fall before the RSV season sets in.

Nirsevimab is a monoclonal antibody, rather than a vaccine. Vaccines give the patient a modified version or a part of the virus or bacteria, and the body makes antibodies that protect against infection. With a monoclonal antibody medication, antibodies are produced in the lab and injected into the patient, where they provide similar protection for weeks or months.

“Nirsevimab has so far shown to be very safe for babies, and is something parents should consider to protect their little ones during the fall and winter respiratory season,” said Per Gesteland, MD, a hospitalist at University of Utah Health and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital. “If all goes as expected, the medication will be available this fall, and be able protect babies during their first RSV season, which is the time they’re more likely to become very sick.”

RSV is a serious respiratory illness that affects children every winter.

Each January and February, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital fills with hundreds of ill infants and toddlers who require hospitalization to be treated for RSV complications. Many children need ventilators and other treatments to help them breathe.

RSV can cause coughing, stuffy or runny nose, fever, and other “common cold” symptoms.

A baby or young child with RSV may feed poorly or be fussy, inactive, or sleepy. Breathing problems – fast breathing, wheezing, or very difficult breathing – can signal worsening illness. Nationwide, an estimated 58,000 to 80,000 children are hospitalized due to RSV each year.

An estimated 100 to 300 children die from RSV complications each year.

The COVID-19 pandemic disrupted typical RSV epidemic cycles. In 2020, Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital had no RSV patients, which was unheard of. In 2021, RSV cases spiked during the late summer, which was also unprecedented, and came at the same time as COVID-19 respiratory infections were on the rise.

In the fall of 2022, RSV arrived early again in November. The severe RSV season overlapped with influenza and a COVID-19 surge during the winter of 2022-2023, with record-breaking numbers of children coming through the emergency department on several days, and record numbers of hospitalizations.

“RSV has a severe impact on children, families, and children’s hospitals including Primary Children’s, which is overwhelmed by RSV admissions every year,” Dr. Gesteland said. “Nirsevimab is a breakthrough medicine that can help keep babies healthier, and keep hospital beds available for kids who have been injured in accidents, or need heart surgeries and other care. It would have a positive impact on Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital and on children’s health in our communities.”

For more information on RSV and other disease trends, visit Intermountain Health’s website.

Also visit  Intermountain Health for more health and wellness care information.

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