Make your home page

Health Spotlight: New RSV vaccine approved for adults over 60

Health Spotlight: Livesaving RSV vaccine approved for older adults

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — A new vaccine has been approved to help protect adults 60 and older from respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV.

“(An) RSV vaccine has been six decades in the making, it is pretty groundbreaking,” Dr. Shalika Katugaha, an infectious disease expert at Baptist Health in Jacksonville, Florida, said.

But what is RSV? Symptoms of the virus mimic the common cold, but can turn into pneumonia. Infectious disease experts say babies, older people, and anyone with a compromised immune system is at risk.

“RSV is transmitted when someone coughs or sneezes. Then another common way that people do get it, especially these older adults, is direct contact with the virus, which actually means kissing their grandchild and getting it from them that way,” Katugaha said.

Severe cases of the virus can be deadly, Katugaha adds. “It’s, in fact, responsible for around 10,000 deaths in people over 60 and in 60,000 to 160,000 hospitalizations in this age (older) group.”

To date, two vaccines have FDA approval – the first made by GlaxoSmithKline Pharmaceuticals, under the brand name Arexvy. The second vaccine was created by Pfizer.

In clinical trials, the new RSV vaccine showed that the once-a-year shot lowered the risk of symptoms by 83% and severe illness by 94%.

Katugaha says the vaccines are not “live shots,” and will be fine for anyone age 60 and older to receive.

But with many older adults already on their fifth or sixth covid vaccine and booster, combined with the flu and shingles vaccines – is that too many vaccines for our body to handle?

“Your body does not get too many vaccines. In fact, vaccines are our strength and our armor; they’re what protect us,” Katugaha said.

The goal is to have the vaccine available by fall, in time for the next RSV season, which usually peaks between December and February. Doctors warn that as there is no treatment for RSV, prevention is key.

The vaccine is not yet approved for children or infants, but researchers hope by getting it to the older population first will pave the way for clinical trials for infants and children. The vaccine will be similar to the flu vaccine and lasts one year.

This story was created from a script aired on WISH-TV. Health Spotlight is presented by Community Health Network.