CDC Recommends New Vaccine to Protect Babies Against Severe Respiratory Illness

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In a significant move to protect newborns from severe respiratory illnesses, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended Pfizer’s bivalent RSVpreF vaccine for pregnant individuals on Friday. The vaccine, known by the trade name of Abrysvo TM, is designed to combat the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is the leading cause of hospitalization for U.S. infants.

Studies show that the vaccine reduces the risk of RSV hospitalization for babies by 57 percent in the first six months after birth. To maximize protection for babies after birth, the CDC recommends seasonal administration of one dose of the RSV vaccine for pregnant individuals during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy.

The RSVpreF vaccine is one of two new tools available this season to protect infants from severe RSV illness. Last month, the CDC recommended a new RSV immunization for infants that has been shown to reduce the risk of both RSV-related hospitalizations and healthcare visits in infants by about 80 percent. Most infants will likely only need protection from either the maternal RSV vaccine or infant immunization, but not both. However, if a baby is born less than two weeks after maternal immunization, a doctor may recommend that the baby also receive the infant immunization.

CDC Director Dr. Mandy Cohen said, “This is another new tool we can use this fall and winter to help protect lives. I encourage parents to talk to their doctors about how to protect their little ones against serious RSV illness, using either a vaccine given during pregnancy or an RSV immunization given to your baby after birth.”

This is the first fall and winter virus season where vaccines are available for the three major respiratory viruses – COVID-19, RSV, and flu. Updated COVID-19 and flu vaccines are recommended for everyone 6 months and older. The CDC now also recommends the RSV vaccine for adults ages 60 and over, using shared clinical decision-making.

On September 22, 2023, members of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted 11-1 to recommend the maternal RSV vaccine for pregnant people during weeks 32 through 36 gestation, to prevent RSV lower respiratory tract infection in infants. They also voted to approve Pfizer’s bivalent RSVpreF vaccine for the Vaccines for Children Program, which applies to pregnant people under 19 years of age.

With RSVpreF now available in some locations across the U.S and availability set to increase in the coming weeks, pregnant individuals and parents are encouraged to consult their healthcare provider, pharmacist, or local community health center to discuss which vaccines they need to stay protected this fall and winter.

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