New RSV injection to help protect infants from leading cause of hospitalization

Recently approved medication could mean fewer infant hospitalizations and fatalities due to respiratory syncytial virus

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is recommending a new, long-acting monoclonal antibody injection to help protect infants from severe illness caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). One dose may protect infants from serious RSV disease.

Norton Children’s Medical Group

Stay up to date on your child’s vaccines by visiting one of our pediatrician offices, conveniently located across Kentucky and Southern Indiana.

Book your appointment directly by location or provider.

The CDC estimates nationwide between 58,000 to 80,000 children under age 5, mostly infants, are hospitalized each year due to RSV. Hundreds of cases are fatal. During the 2022 RSV season, Norton Children’s diagnosed more than 4,000 patients, resulting in 404 hospitalizations.

While RSV typically causes common-cold symptoms like cough, runny nose and fever in older children and adults, infants and younger children can develop more serious lung infections, such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia.

New injection could reduce hospitalizations

According to the CDC and the Food and Drug Administration, nirsevimab, also called Beyfortus, can be given to infants under 8 months and some older babies to avoid severe forms of the disease. While nirsevimab may not prevent getting RSV, the long-acting monoclonal antibody has been shown to reduce the risk of both hospitalizations and health care visits for RSV in infants by about 80%.

“RSV impacts thousands of children each year and, in severe cases, can be fatal to infants,” said Kristina K. Bryant, M.D., pediatric infectious diseases specialist with Norton Children’s Infectious Diseases, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “This breakthrough [GI1] can help prevent hospitalizations and save the lives of our youngest patients.”

According to Dr. Bryant, Norton Children’s typically sees RSV patients starting in November and running through mid-February.[GI2]  According to the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), nirsevimab can be taken with the flu shot and other regularly scheduled vaccinations.

“Families can take preventive measures against the virus by practicing good hand-washing, regularly disinfecting household items and keeping their children home from day care or school if they are sick,” Dr. Bryant said. “Nirsevimab is now another tool families can use to help prevent RSV.”

Who is eligible for nirsevimab?

All infants younger than 8 months born during, or entering, their first RSV season are recommended to get one dose of nirsevimab. For children between the ages of 8 and 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV, such as immunocompromised children or children with certain kinds of chronic lung disease, an additional dose is recommended in their second RSV season.

“It’s important for families, especially those with young and immunocompromised children, to safeguard against RSV,” said Heather M. Felton, M.D., pediatrician with Norton Children’s Medical Group, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine. “We’re excited offer nirsevimab as an option for our patients to help keep kids healthier.”

Nirsevimab is expected to be available this fall, ahead of the typical RSV season.