Lifesaving RSV vaccine approved for pregnant women in the UK for the first time – are you eligible? | The Sun

A LIFESAVING vaccine to prevent a sometimes deadly “cold-like” virus has been approved for pregnant women for the first time.

Pfizer’s Abrysvo jab for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was greenlit for use in British adults by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).

The jab is the second RSV vaccine to be approved in the UK — after GSK's Arexvy in July — but the first that can be used in expectant mums.

Experts say the shot will protect infants from complications from birth through to six months of age through maternal immunisation.

It will also help ease pressures on hospitals and spare parents the pain of seeing their children battling the virus, it is hoped.

The number of youngsters going to hospital with RSV is currently surging, with visits more than quadrupling in under-fives over the last month, according to the UK Health Security Agency.

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Professor Beate Kampmann, of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said: “RSV patients often come to hospital in advanced stages of respiratory distress. 

“What starts as coughing and a tight chest can quickly escalate into severe difficulty breathing and emergency care, particularly in babies and older people. 

“The availability of a vaccine represents an opportunity to reduce serious complications of respiratory disease associated with the virus. 

“This could save countless parents and family members the ordeal of seeing children and loved ones fighting the complications of the virus on a hospital ward – and also ease pressure on the health service at the most overstretched time of year.”

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RSV is a common infection that causes around 450,000 GP appointments, 29,000 hospitalisations and 83 deaths a year in British children and teenagers.

It can be particularly dangerous in children under two, where it can cause bronchiolitis — a chest infection that can be serious.

Bronchiolitis causes symptoms similar to a cold, including sneezing, a runny or blocked nose, a cough or high temperature.

The cough usually clears up after three weeks, but some children are at risk of becoming seriously ill, particularly if they were born prematurely, have a heart or lung condition or weakened immune system.

The new jab from Pfizer has been approved for pregnant people and older adults after the MHRA reviewed data from two clinical trials published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

The first showed it helps prevent severe illness in children up to six months old when given to expectant mothers in pregnancy.

It also helps prevent RSV illness in over-60s, according to the ongoing second trial.

The Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which advises Government on vaccine policy, called for a new winter vaccine rollout to tackle RSV in June.

It said ministers should consider a seasonal or year-round offer for pregnant mums and babies, as well as over-75s.

The burden RSV places on precious healthcare resources is matched only by its impact on parents, who have to watch their little one struggling to breathe or coughing so hard they cannot feed.

Dr Ronny Cheung, a consultant paediatrician at Evelina London Children's Hospital, said: “The number of infants seeing GPs or coming into hospital because of RSV infections is already increasing week on week. 

“RSV is the single highest cause of hospital admissions for infants across the developed world. 

“The burden it places on precious healthcare resources is matched only by its impact on parents, who have to watch their little one struggling to breathe or coughing so hard they cannot feed.”

He said healthcare professionals “have had to manage this annual epidemic the best we could” for decades.

Dr Cheung said: “The recent arrival of RSV vaccines should herald a new dawn for tackling this pervasive disease and yet, clinicians and parents continue to be frustrated by delays in the implementation of a national RSV immunisation programme. 

“It is imperative that the advice of experts and NHS staff is listened to and a national RSV immunisation programme is implemented promptly. 

“This will avoid the need for so many infants to spend time in hospital and relieve the pressure on children’s intensive care beds, which are often in short supply. 

“Whilst it may be too late to reduce the impact of RSV for infants, parents and the NHS this winter, we need to ensure that we have a robust prevention plan and systematic solution in place, ready to implement as early as possible in the new year.”

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