New RSV vaccine for older adults

Many hospitalizations for pneumonia were not connected to RSV until the COVID-19 pandemic led to better testing
Published: Oct. 19, 2023 at 6:07 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - A new RSV vaccine is available for adults to prevent people 60 and older from getting severely sick.

We’ve heard a lot about how dangerous the Respiratory Syncytial Virus can be for babies, but adults get RSV, too. Every year, at least 100,000 adults are hospitalized for pneumonia related to RSV in the U.S.

A doctor we spoke with at Bellin Health says it was under-recognized before COVID-19 because it wasn’t typically tested for and cases were missed. A lot of older adults were hospitalized and treated for severe pneumonia, and doctors didn’t realize a lot of those cases were RSV.

”I think we’ve just had a bigger awareness of RSV because of COVID. We were aware that more of these infections were RSV, and we didn’t realize befor. I think that’s part of the issue. I think that’s why [the vaccine] has been developed,” Dr. Robert Mead said.

Not every adult necessarily needs the RSV vaccine, but it’s recommended for people 60 and older with certain health conditions.

“Similar to COVID, it’s really an immune deficiency issue. In adults, the people we really recommend getting the vaccine are those that have underlying medical problems -- diabetics, patients who have cancer, the frail elderly,” Dr. Mead advised.

Also there are now rapid RSV tests available, like rapid COVID and strep tests. Many local health care providers now offer those, making it easy to get tested and diagnose the virus.

Check with your pharmacy and local health care centers, which are now providing the new adult RSV vaccine.