GREENSBORO, N.C. — One of the fastest spreading illnesses among children in the United States right now isn’t COVID or the flu, but a respiratory virus known as RSV. Now help could finally be on the way.
Tuesday, Pfizer announced its creation of a vaccine that could protect newborns from the virus. When given to pregnant women in trials it was almost 82 percent effective in preventing RSV in babies up to three months old. It was almost 70 percent effective in children through 6 months of age.
Dr. Mike Cinoman is the Director of the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit at Cone Health. He said he's optimistic about Pfizer's latest development.
“RSV has been very difficult and a real challenge to make an effective vaccine for it,” Dr. Cinoman said. “People have been working on that for many, many years. It potentially could be an incredibly effective tool. RSV causes lots of misery in small children."
Reports show RSV cases are rising in 36 states across the country at an alarming rate. Dr. Cinoman said this increase is partially due to children not being exposed to the virus and developing immunity during the COVID pandemic lockdowns.
“We are seeing more children in the emergency department, hospital, and doctors' offices than any of us can remember in recent years,” Dr. Cinoman said. “Our hospitals are very busy with children who are sick. ERs are full and this is throughout the country and state. This is not unique to us in Greensboro. It is a national issue."
RSV can also be dangerous for older adults too. Pfizer and its competitor GSK recently announced their shots also proved protective for seniors. Pfizer said it plans to seek FDA approval this year. Health experts say the findings raise the prospect that the vaccines might become available before next fall's RSV season.