What to learn about Pfizer’s RSV vaccine for adults, in keeping with consultants


Pfizer made a big announcement this week: the pharmaceutical company has developed an experimental vaccine to target respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) and the results are promising. According to Pfizer, a late-stage clinical trial found the vaccine, called RSVpreF, to be 85.7% effective in preventing serious disease in older adults.

The vaccine, which has caused no safety issues so far, was also about 67% effective in preventing mild RSV disease in the 37,000 people aged 60 and over who were enrolled in the trial. “These findings are an important step in our efforts to help protect against RSV disease, and we look forward to working with the FDA and other regulators to make this vaccine candidate available to help address the substantial burden of RSV disease in the elderly, » Annaliesa Anderson, PhD, senior vice president and chief scientific officer of vaccine research and development at Pfizer, said in a Press release.

Each year, about 177,000 elderly people are hospitalized with RSV infection in the United States, and 14,000 of these infections result in death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “RSV is a major burden of disease in older or immunocompromised adults,” Amesh A. Adalja, MDinfectious disease expert and principal investigator at the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, says SELF.

Currently, there is only a monoclonal antibody injection, called Synagis, which is used to reduce the risk of severe RSV disease in certain high-risk babies. But the FDA has yet to approve an RSV vaccine for adults, so Pfizer’s option is poised to become the first to get there.

Why are doctors talking about RSV lately?

RSV is a common childhood virus that infects most people before the age of two, according to the CDC. But the disease can strike anyone at any time, and it can lead to serious health complications in very young or old people.

“Many of us were taught in medical school that RSV was primarily a virus that infects children,” William Schaffner, MD, an infectious disease specialist and professor at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells SELF. « But over the past 20 years we’ve learned that it also causes serious infections in adults. »

RSV is spread like many other respiratory viruses: when an infected person coughs or sneezes; when you receive virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose or mouth; when you touch a surface infected with the virus and then touch your face without washing your hands; or when you have direct contact with the virus, the CDC says. RSV usually causes cold-like symptoms, such as a runny nose, decreased appetite, coughing, sneezing, fever, and wheezing.

However, in high-risk people, it can also trigger serious infections like bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the small airways in the lungs, and pneumonia, an infection of the lungs. Either of these can lead to hospitalization; in the most severe cases, a person may need supplemental oxygen or an intubation.

How does Pfizer’s RSV vaccine work? Is it effective?

Pfizer’s RSV vaccine is a single-dose protein vaccine that uses the prefusion F structure, a form of the viral protein that RSV uses to invade human cells. Previous research by the National Institutes of Health showed that antibodies specific to this protein « were very effective in blocking viral infection, » according to the Pfizer statement.

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