This fall, adults over 60 will be able to get RSV Vaccines, a virus that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates causes between 60,000-160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000-10,000 deaths among older Americans each year due to respiratory illness. This is a necessary advance in medicine, according to health experts.
The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices’ advice to use the vaccine was endorsed by CDC Director Rochelle Walensky on June 29. This marks the conclusion of a decades-long effort to provide such protections against the virus, which made headlines last year when a “tripledemic” of RSV, flu, and COVID-19 infections overran hospitals nationwide.
An editorial writer was told by Lynn Bahta, an immunization specialist at the Minnesota Department of Health, “It’s really exciting to have available.”
The Pfizer and GSK vaccines were approved by the Food and Drug Administration in May. The GSK vaccine has been demonstrated in clinical studies to be 83% effective against lower respiratory infections brought on by RSV in the first year following vaccination. Infections of the lower respiratory tract are frequently more severe and persistent than those of the upper respiratory tract. In the first year, tests on the Pfizer vaccine revealed 89% effectiveness against comparable infections.
Adults over 65, those with chronic heart or lung conditions, and those with compromised immune systems are most at risk for developing severe RSV infections. RSV normally causes a cold in healthy people, but in more susceptible populations, it can cause pneumonia or lung infections.
According to Eric Musungayi, chief health officer at People’s Centre, a nonprofit community health center serving south Minneapolis, a person seeking a vaccine would be protecting not only themselves but also their community and other vulnerable people.
RSV (full name: respiratory syncytial virus) typically doesn’t cause symptoms until a person reaches the age of 65, but according to Bahta, some racial and ethnic groups, such as African Americans, American Indians, and people of Hispanic origin, are more susceptible to it earlier in life. For this reason, the CDC recommends that adults 60 and older get vaccinated against RSV.
At about 65, Bahta claimed, “you really start to see the frequency of illness take off.” However, we see that among some racial and ethnic groupings, the prevalence is substantially higher at a younger age when we break down that data.
Bahta advised people in the 60–64 age range to speak with their doctors about whether the RSV vaccines would be beneficial for them. “[For] some 60-year-olds, the vaccine wouldn’t be worth the cost. You want to get it while you’re vulnerable, she remarked. “So it would be better to wait if you don’t have multiple health issues,” she said.
The slight but real risk of Guillain-Barré syndrome (GBS) is another justification for seeing a doctor. Three out of around 35,000 participants in the clinical trials of the GSK and Pfizer vaccinations experienced GBS, a condition in which the body’s immune system turns against itself a week after receiving the shot.
That is one of the reasons, according to Bahta, why it is advised that you discuss this with your doctor. “If you’re 60 and in good health, the reward might not be worth the risk. But if you also have asthma and diabetes, RSV vaccines could be fatal for you.
Since the RSV vaccines has only recently been licensed, there are still some questions about when and where older persons will be able to obtain it, according to Bahta. She advised those who were interested to regularly check the websites of their clinics and insurance companies for updates.
If you adhere to the requirements of your insurance plan, you won’t be responsible for paying for the vaccination, according to Bahta. People who are underinsured or without insurance, however, probably won’t have the same freedom. However, the Minnesota Department of Health intends to buy some RSV vaccines for clinics that cater to persons without insurance or with inadequate insurance. A tool to locate free or inexpensive immunization clinics in the metro and around greater Minnesota is available on the MDH website. Another helpful resource for people concerned about the potential expense of the vaccine is community health centers like People’s Centre.
Bahta urged senior citizens to discuss the benefits of the RSV vaccines with their physicians. She remarked, “This infection can cause havoc in an elderly person’s lungs and change their life. “Please talk to your doctor as soon as you are able when you have the chance to get that RSV vaccines.”