For parents, the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) season can be stressful, and we understand. Despite your best prevention efforts, it’s common for babies and young children to catch RSV. And unfortunately, it can make some babies very sick.
However, with RSV season approaching, a new antibody injection (shot) called nirsevimab may be able to help prevent severe RSV infections in babies and young kids.
In this Q&A, Dr. Jasjit Singh, a pediatric infectious disease specialist and medical director of infection prevention at CHOC, answers frequently asked questions about the nirsevimab RSV injection.
What is Nirsevimab? Is it safe?
Nirsevimab (also referred to by the brand name Beyfortus) is an antibody treatment that can boost immunity to prevent RSV infections in babies and young children.
The treatment is given as a single injection to newborns and infants under 8 months old during their first RSV season. Children up to 19 months who are vulnerable to severe infections from RSV — such as those with congenital heart disease or premature babies with long-term breathing and lung problems —can also receive a dose during their second RSV season.
Nirsevimab has been tested by scientists, and clinical trials showed that the injection could reduce the risk of severe RSV (which may require medical treatment or hospitalization) by 75%.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have approved and recommended its safety for use in protecting infants against RSV.
Why should my baby receive the nirsevimab RSV shot?
RSV is common, and one of the many viruses that cause respiratory illnesses ― illnesses of the nose, throat, and lungs. For healthy children, RSV symptoms resemble a common cold.
But for immunosuppressed and young babies, RSV may lead to lower respiratory illnesses like bronchiolitis and pneumonia — inflammation of the small airway passages entering the lungs — which can be life-threatening. RSV in infancy may also be related to the development of asthma later in childhood.
In clinical trials, the nirsevimab injection has shown to been proven to lower the need for medical care from RSV for babies by 70% to 75%.
Who can receive the RSV shot?
The CDC and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend that all infants — especially those at high risk for severe RSV — receive the nirsevimab injection. This includes:
- All infants younger than 8 months born during or entering their first RSV season.
- Infants and children aged 8 through 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease and entering their second RSV season.
When will the RSV shot be available for my child?
The CDC states that nirsevimab injections should be available this fall, which is also when RSV season typically begins. However, because the injection is so new, it may not be available at all birthing hospitals, doctor’s offices and clinics right away.
If nirsevimab is not available for your eligible child, the AAP suggests the continued use of a medicine called palivizumab (Synagis), which has been given in the past to prevent RSV in babies who are at high risk for infection and complications. Ask your child’s doctor if they may be at high risk for RSV.
Where can my child get the RSV shot?
Your child may be able to receive the nirsevimab injection at their birthing hospital or pediatrician’s office. Your child may also receive the nirsevimab shot at the same time as they receive their other recommended immunizations. Contact your child’s pediatrician to check for the injection’s availability and timing.
Are there any side effects to the RSV shot?
Possible side effects of nirsevimab include rash and injection site reactions. Consult your child’s doctor if they typically have allergic reactions to injections or medications.
Is there a reason my child should not get the RSV shot?
The injection is recommended for most infants and at-risk children if they meet the criteria during RSV season, but be sure to consult your child’s pediatrician for specific guidance for your child. The injection should not be given to any infants or children with known allergies to nirsevimab’s ingredients. Get more information about the nirsevimab RSV injection from the AAP.
Staying current on vaccinations is important for all people, especially babies and children. Get help navigating which immunizations your child needs and when to get them.