New RSV vaccine treatment may help children and infants

Reporter: Amy Oshier Writer: Nicholas Karsen
Published: Updated:

Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a common illness among young kids. Eighty percent of babies catch it within their first year of life. For some, it can be serious and require hospitalization. Now, doctors are hoping new vaccines will help.

Eighteen-month-old Hannah and her twin brother Nolan are full of smiles and energy, but October 2022 was a different story.

“That was the worst week of my life,” their mother, Kym Lyell painfully remembers.

Both of her babies caught RSV at just seven months old. Hannah ended up in the hospital.

Kym expresses, “There were certain points in times where it was like, ‘Are we going to lose her?’”

Kym feared her daughter would end up on a ventilator. Instead, doctors used a special tool they call the “turtle shell” or “chest cuirass.”

“Instead of pushing air into your lungs, it actually draws the chest upwards with negative pressure. It creates a vacuum around the chest and it pulls the chest and then that brings air into the lungs,” explains Christopher Belcher, MD, Pediatric Infectious Disease Medical Director at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital.

Hannah was in the hospital for a week before finally turning a corner. Dr. Belcher says RSV overwhelmed children’s hospitals in 2022. It hit earlier and worse than expected. This year, new vaccines could help, including one for babies entering their first RSV season.

Dr. Belcher further explains, “And this is not an active vaccine. These are premade antibodies. Just like mom transferring antibodies into the baby, this is an injection of antibodies that will hang around the baby for at least the five months that the season is expected to last.”

Kym’s message to others: take RSV seriously.

“You hear of this, of different sicknesses, and you never think it’s going to actually affect you,” she emphasizes.

Dr. Belcher says the new antibody is available for babies, but administration of it is still being worked out. There are also new, approved RSV vaccines available for people ages 60 and older, and for women in weeks 32 to 36 of their pregnancy. Dr. Belcher encourages people to talk to their health care providers about these new vaccines.

Contributors to this news report include: Lindsay Dailey, Producer; Kyle Fisher, Videographer; Roque Correa, Editor.

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