URMC spearheading research on RSV vaccines

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is reviewing two promising vaccines that would help prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus in older adults.

Whether you are young or old, researchers at the University of Rochester say they are optimistic about the potential life-saving impact an RSV vaccine could have on both older adults and babies.

Katy Alfano, a parent, said that she is just thankful that both of her kids are still alive after having RSV.

“My daughter was about four months old at the time when we were hospitalized. It affected her so differently than my two-and-a-half-year-old. and me and my husband actually got it as well, and it was completely different, it was almost like a cold for us,” Alfano said.

Not knowing what was wrong with her four-month-old baby Elizabeth, Alfano rushed her to the hospital where doctors were able to save her life.

“Because their breathing cords, or their breathing tubes and everything, is so much smaller that when it gets inflamed it gets really, really hard for them to breathe, so it lowers their oxygen count and that’s why she was hospitalized because her oxygen levels were so low,” Dr. Ann Falsey said.

These are reasons why researchers like Dr. Falsey at the University of Rochester Medical Center are spearheading the development of a vaccine.

“50,000 older adults are hospitalized each year and roughly ten thousand people die and the current vaccine candidates are around 85% effective to prevent lower respiratory tract disease,” she said.

In a recent article published in the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Falsey says one of the vaccine candidates administered during pregnancy was effective against severe RSV and associated lower respiratory tract illness in infants.

“It doesn’t affect everyone in between its just the very young, under age six months, and over age sixty with underlying heart and lung disease, you have a much more likely chance of becoming seriously ill,” Falsey said.

Promising results for parents like Katy who just want others to be aware of RSV and its potential impact on children.