"The groundwork of all happiness is health." - Leigh Hunt

Now is the time for older adults to receive the RSV vaccine

Oct. 11, 2023 – Recent advances in immunology have given healthcare providers and their patients recent tools to combat a potentially fatal respiratory disease that primarily affects older adults. And no, it's not COVID-19.

Public health officials estimate that just about every American will contract no less than one mild type of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) during their lifetime. The disease might be life-threatening for infants and young children, but it may possibly even be dangerous for older adults.

Each 12 months, 60,000 to 160,000 adults over 65 years of age are hospitalized for RSV. up to 10,000 deadIn May, the FDA the first RSV vaccine approved for adults over 60.

Then, in July, the FDA has approved a vaccine for young children and for expectant mothers within the thirty second to thirty sixth week of pregnancy. There are between 58,000 and 80,000 hospital admissions for youngsters under 5 years of age annually.

Doctors strongly advise adults over 60 with health problems to get vaccinated against RSV Cold and flu season, but now also COVID and RSV.

“I think it's a no-brainer for someone who has some kind of immune deficiency or suffers from chronic illnesses,” said Dr. Tom Yadegar, pulmonologist and medical director of the intensive care unit at Providence Cedars-Sinai Tarzana Medical Center in Los Angeles. Patients with heart and lung disease, liver or kidney disease, diabetes, asthma and COPD are prime candidates for the vaccine. “RSV virus infection can be very serious and can result in hospitalization and even death.”

Yadegar said half of his office appointments involve talking about vaccines for RSV, COVID-19 and the flu.

Awareness and understanding of RSV has increased in recent times. During the COVID pandemic, health care providers have begun conducting more respiratory testing, Yadegar said. Advances in medicine have allowed experts to higher determine what’s a chilly and what’s RSV.

Similar to the common cold, RSV generally causes mild symptoms that go away in a week or two. But just like the flu, RSV can pose a major risk to older and fewer healthy people.

The vaccine poses no serious risks and reactions include the same old redness and pain on the injection site. Anyone who has had an allergic response to a vaccine should seek the advice of their doctor.

The RSV vaccine for adults is between 83% and 89% effectivedepending on the manufacturer.

“I strongly encourage them to take advantage of this vaccine,” Paul Auwaerter, MD, clinical director of infectious diseases on the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said of patients age 60 and older with underlying health conditions.

He ranks RSV as “one of the big three” respiratory diseases, behind COVID and the flu.

“It is still a potentially preventable disease that can be influenced by vaccination, so I strongly recommend it,” Auwaerter said.