The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine for ages 60-older for use in the U.S, and since then many people have been calling Kaiser Permanente to ask when they can get it.
Dr. Katie Sharff, Chief of Infectious Disease for Kaiser Permanente Northwest, says the approval of the RSV vaccine Arexvy is great news, though the vaccine will not be available until fall. “The CDC needs to provide clinical guidance first and then the vaccine will need to be distributed, so it may take a little longer than some people expect. But it’s still great news because respiratory viruses like RSV should be taken seriously, especially in older adults.”
In the U.S. alone, the CDC estimates between 60,000-160,000 older adults are hospitalized by RSV every year, and somewhere between 6,000 to 14,000 deaths are attributed to RSV in adults 65 and older. “The virus can be life-altering in older adults because it can cause lower respiratory tract disease and life-threatening pneumonia. Furthermore, it can cause other underlying health conditions to worsen,” said Dr. Sharff, “causing worsening of heart failure or COPD.”
Additionally, there is an RSV vaccine that could be given to pregnant people to prevent severe RSV disease in infants that will likely seek FDA approval in August. As we saw with last season, RSV infection can cause significant burden in infants and young children with an estimated 58,000 hospitalizations annually in children under 5 years old in the U.S.
Many people are eagerly awaiting the vaccines, especially after last year’s long and severe RSV season. “We need to remain patient, but we expect the vaccine will be available for distribution this fall, which will be just in time for the typical cold/flu/RSV season.