New Drug Protects Infants from RSV

U.S. health officials have issued a recommendation for infants to receive a recently approved drug to guard against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a virus that poses a serious threat to young children and the elderly. The drug, developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi, is a lab-made antibody designed to strengthen the immune system’s response to the virus. As there are currently no available vaccines for babies, this drug is considered a vital measure in safeguarding infants from RSV.

Known as Beyfortus, the drug is expected to be accessible in the fall, just before the onset of the RSV season, which usually spans from November through March. Annually, approximately 58,000 children under the age of 5 are hospitalized due to RSV, with several hundred succumbing to the infection.

The advisory panel to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has suggested a one-time administration of the drug for infants born just before or during the RSV season, as well as for those under 8 months old before the season’s commencement. The panel further recommended a dosage for certain 8- to 19-month-olds who are at a heightened risk of severe illness from RSV. The CDC director has granted approval for these recommendations.

Although the drug’s price is set at $495 per dose, it will be covered by insurance. Nonetheless, some initial challenges are expected in terms of administering the shot and receiving reimbursement from insurers.

Although not classified as a vaccine, the expert panel has endorsed its inclusion in the government program “Vaccines for Children,” which offers free immunizations. The American Academy of Pediatrics is encouraging hospitals to stock up on Beyfortus, enabling newborns to receive the drug during the RSV season before leaving the facility.

In May, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) greenlit two RSV vaccines for older adults, developed by GlaxoSmithKline and Pfizer, respectively. The FDA is expected to announce its decision on approving Pfizer’s vaccine for pregnant women in August, with the intention of conferring protection to their newborns.

The introduction of this new drug is considered a significant advancement in safeguarding vulnerable infants from RSV, particularly after last year’s severe RSV season. With the drug anticipated to be available ahead of the upcoming RSV season, health officials are optimistic that it will aid in curbing hospitalizations and fatalities among young children due to this virus. The focus remains on safeguarding the most vulnerable members of the population and ensuring a healthier, safer future for all.