CDC recommends medication to protect babies against RSV

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Update: Aug. 4, 2023 – This article has been updated to reflect the CDC’s support for its advisory panel’s vote, as stated in this press release.

photo of happy baby laying on a white mattress

Infants and 1-year-olds will soon be able to receive a new medication to protect them from RSV (respiratory syncytial virus).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) advisory panel today voted unanimously to recommend the monoclonal antibody medication nirsevimab (Beyfortus) for use in most babies and some 1-year-olds. The agency followed with its support of the panel’s vote. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the drug July 17.

Virtually all children get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old. It causes a mild, cold-like illness in most cases, but RSV can cause severe illness in some babies, with approximately 1% to 3% of those under 12 months of age hospitalized each year due to RSV. It is the most common cause of hospitalization among infants in the United States, especially babies under 6 months old.

As opposed to vaccines, which take time to teach the body to fight off viruses by mounting an immune response, monoclonal antibodies, which are injected like a vaccine, provide more immediate protection.

“Monoclonal antibodies act like a shield against a virus,” said Dr. Paul Cieslak, OHA senior health advisor and medical director, Communicable Diseases and Immunizations program. “That’s critical because we have no vaccine against RSV for the young babies who are at highest risk. Nirsevimab is an important development because, unlike existing monoclonal antibody medication, its protection can last through the entire RSV season.”

RSV is a seasonal virus (usually October through March), and CDC recommendations are as follows:

  • Babies born during or shortly before the RSV season should receive a single dose of nirsevimab within a week of birth.
  • Infants under 8 months old should receive a single dose of nirsevimab shortly before the start of the RSV season.
  • Babies age 8 – 19 months who are at increased risk* of severe RSV should receive a single dose of nirsevimab shortly before the start of their second RSV season.

*Babies and 1-year-olds at increased risk who should receive nirsevimab treatment for their second RSV season include:  

  • Children with chronic lung disease
  • Children with severe immunocompromise
  • Children with cystic fibrosis
  • Some children with low weight-for-length
  • American Indian and Alaska Native children

Talk to your child’s pediatrician to determine when or if they should receive nirsevimab.

Nirsevimab should be available in Oregon ahead of the 2023-2024 RSV season.