The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has granted approval for a new vaccine that can help fight respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), an illness that leads to the death of thousands of people each year in America. The vaccine, named Arexvy by the UK-based manufacturer GSK, has been hailed as a significant breakthrough that could save many lives. However, it still needs evaluation from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) before it can be made available to the public.
Dr Peter Marks, who leads the Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research at the FDA, said, “Today’s approval of the first RSV vaccine is an important public health achievement to prevent a disease which can be life-threatening.”
RSV is a respiratory disease that typically causes cold-like symptoms for adults. However, it can prove dangerous for young children, those with underlying health conditions, and older adults aged over 65 who suffer from the virus. On average, it kills between 100 and 300 children under the age of 5 in America every year, and causes between 6,000 to 10,000 fatalities among adults over 65 annually, leading to between 60,000 to 120,000 hospitalisations.
According to the CDC, the quickest way to prevent RSV is through vaccination. Arexvy is the first vaccine capable of preventing RSV anywhere in the world, having been in development for over 60 years. Arexvy has an efficacy rate of 82.6%, according to a study by GSK in February.
The most common side effects are “mild or moderate,” such as discomfort around the injection site or fatigue, typically subsiding within two days. Officials say the vaccine could be available to people aged over 60 within the next few months.
Dr Susanna Naggie, an infectious disease specialist, at Duke University School of Medicine, in Durham, North Carolina said, “This is a very important and long-awaited advance for an infection that causes significant morbidity and mortality, particularly in older adults.”
The breakthrough vaccine could potentially save numerous lives, and its approval by the FDA is a critical step in the fight against RSV.
Recognizing the Signs of Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in Children
RSV typically begins with a stuffy or runny nose, followed by a dry cough, fever, and occasionally, difficulty breathing. In most cases, it is mild and can be managed with infant paracetamol or ibuprofen. If your child is not drinking enough fluids, having difficulty breathing or has a temperature that won’t go down, consult your doctor or seek medical attention. If your little one is having trouble breathing to the point of exhaustion – muscles around their ribs are prominently drawing in as they take each breath and they are pale and sweaty – immediately call emergency services.