For the first time, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccines and monoclonal antibody treatments are available to patients at Sanford Health.
“Honestly, it’s a game-changer for everybody,” said Stephanie Hanson, MD, a pediatrician at Sanford Children’s in Fargo, North Dakota.
The vaccine and treatment are the first to be approved for RSV by the Food and Drug Administration, and each is recommended for different subsets of patients.
The new Abrysvo vaccine is strongly recommended between 32-36 weeks of pregnancy to help immunize babies against RSV in the first six months of their lives. The vaccine is also recommended for adults age 60 and older who have a weakened immune system, chronic conditions such as heart or lung disease, or those who live in a nursing home.
The antibody treatment, Beyfortus, is recommended for all infants under 8 months of age born during the RSV season or entering the first season. It is also recommended for some older infants up to 19 months who may be at increased risk of severe disease during their second RSV season. This treatment protects babies for 4-6 months.
The goal is to immunize all babies against RSV, but because of a nationwide shortage of Beyfortus, the CDC has recommended giving priority to high-risk babies. A similar treatment for RSV, known as Synagis, is also available. Parents should talk to their child’s doctor to determine which treatment is right for their child.
“Just like other vaccines, this antibody treatment and this vaccine are not 100% effective at preventing RSV, but what they really do well is reduce the severity of the disease.” They are known to cause a dramatic reduction in hospitalizations,” said Dr. Hanson.
The baby went to the hospital three times
One person who is familiar with RSV hospitalizations is Siri Thaddon, nurse manager at Sanford Dermatology in Fargo. Last December, her son Ivar was hospitalized when he was just one month old after contracting RSV.
“He started out with just a little bit of congestion and then I noticed he wasn’t eating well,” Teyden said. “When he started running a fever of 105 degrees, that’s when I knew I had to bring him in.”
She took Ivar to the emergency room, and after another day of labored breathing, he ended up in the neonatal intensive care unit.
“There’s nothing scarier than when your child is struggling to breathe because there’s not much you can do,” Theiden said. “They all hooked him up to different things, putting him on high-flow oxygen. But I knew we were where we needed to be.
Ivar’s RSV led to bronchiolitis, an infection that causes swelling and mucus to build up in the smaller airways of the lung, which can be much more dangerous in infants.
“(Infants) have less ability to compensate,” Dr. Hanson said. “So if they get clogged with mucus, it’s hard for them to eat. It’s hard for them to breathe. They get dehydrated. They are really fighting.”
However, this was not the end of the Teyden family’s health scares. After five healthy months, Ivar contracted RSV again in the spring, sending him to the hospital over Memorial Day weekend. Then it happened a third time in mid-June when he spent five days at Sanford Children’s.
“I just really felt defeated as a mom,” Teyden said. “You just ask yourself as a parent, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ To have so little control … it’s the worst feeling.”
Tayden says she’s thankful for the new RSV treatment available so other babies can avoid what happened to Ivar.
“I’m so hopeful and so grateful that this is an option,” she said. “For me, seeing how devastating RSV was for my little boy … I don’t want that for any parent.”
Where to get an RSV vaccine
RSV vaccines and antibody treatments are available at Sanford Health clinics near you.
Find more information about immunizations at Sanford Health.
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Posted In Pediatrics, Emergency Medicine, Family Medicine, Immunizations