New RSV drug for infants approved amid vaccine rollout

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The medical community is celebrating some new advances in the fight against Respiratory Syncytial Virus — or RSV. 

A new FDA-approved drug will soon be available for infants, and a vaccine is in the process of being introduced to the public. News10NBC’s Eriketa Cost spoke with a local pediatrician about what families need to know.

Once the drug is available, it gives infants antibodies to instantly protect against RSV in just one single injection. Doctors hope this can reach providers in the fall, just in time for RSV season.

Now this drug, called Nirsevimab, is different than a vaccine.

The vaccine has a different technology that allows the body to build natural immunity over time. Right now, the vaccine is only approved for those ages 60 and up. 

Come this fall, doctors hope it will be available to pregnant women — pending approval by the centers for disease control and prevention.

News10NBC spoke with Dr. Mary Caserta, a pediatrician who specializes in infectious disease with the University of Rochester Medical Center. She says RSV season is usually November through March.

Those most at risk for severe infection include the elderly and infants under eight months of age. That’s why they’re trying to approve the vaccine for pregnant women next — so they can pass natural antibodies to their newborns.

“All the changes in RSV in the last couple years have been wonderful — really moving the field forward for prevention, pregnant women and the elderly. And this new product for the newborn, it’s an exciting time to be working in the RSV world,” says Caserta. “Last season it pushed back. In Rochester we started seeing very significant number of cases through the end of September through October into November. Our normal season is right around Thanksgiving through March.”

Dr. Caserta says one dose of this new drug should last for five month — the duration of a full RSV season. She’s hoping it will be available soon, but with any rollout, there may be some hiccups along the way.

Symptoms to look out for include a cold with difficulty breathing, and trouble eating or drinking.

A vaccine for infants is still being worked on.