FDA advisers give green light for RSV vaccine approval; why this is important for older adults

Published: Mar. 1, 2023 at 11:44 PM EST
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HARRISONBURG, Va. (WHSV) - This week, FDA advisers recommended approval for the first-ever RSV vaccine, according to AP reports. This vaccine is targeted at adults aged 60 and over.

RSV is a respiratory virus that has similar symptoms to a common cold and is usually associated with young children. However, Epidemiology Program Manager Elena Diskin with the Virginia Department of Health said the virus and its effects can be dangerous for older adults as well since the immune system weakens with age.

“For older adults, they can develop lung infections or pneumonia and RSV can lead to worsening conditions like asthma COPD, and congestive heart failure,” Diskin said.

This makes the FDA’s vote to approve the Pfizer and Glaxo-Smith-Kline bivalent vaccines even more significant.

“It’s estimated that the number of RSV associated deaths occur in adults over age 65 and additionally older adults are frequently hospitalized for RSV illness and may experience loss of function and independence,” Diskin said. Cooking, eating and are some of the daily functions people have lost due to the effects of the virus.

Diskin said to this point supportive care like medication, hydration, et cetera have been used to treat RSV, but preventative care like a vaccine could bring a positive change.

“Between 60,000 to 160,000 older adults in the US are hospitalized and between 6,000 and 10,000 then die from RSV infection... Anything that can be done for prevention to avoid hospitalization and death from the illness would be really important,” she said.

Some FDA officials have shown concerns about potential health risks associated with the vaccine including Guillain-Barre’ Syndrome (GBS).

According to the CDC, GBS occurs when a person’s nerves are attacked by the immune system. While it is rare, it is serious and could cause paralysis.

The FDA is expected to make its final vote in May.

In the meantime, Pfizer is moving forward with an application from the FDA for a vaccine that would be given to expectant mothers to protect the baby from birth to six months.

The FDA is scheduled to vote on this in August of this year.