New RSV vaccine is better protecting babies but has potential link to preterm birth

Published: Sep. 19, 2023 at 4:43 PM EDT
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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WOIO) - Late last month the FDA approved Abrysvo, the first ever vaccine created to prevent RSV in babies, by giving the shot to their mothers during the last trimester of their pregnancy.

It has shown promising results in keeping babies from getting sick, but there are concerns about potential links to preterm births.

Kelly Thomas brought a baby in to this world during a covid, flu and RSV outbreak.

“It’s spread so fast. So those first couple months, you just kind of hold them like...he’s precious,” she said.

Already anxious as a new mom, she feared her young son, Skyler would get dangerously sick if he contracted RSV.

“We didn’t really allow people to come over those first couple months except for immediate family and very close friends. You just don’t want to expose him to everyone and everything,” she said.

Looking ahead to future pregnancies, she is relieved to know she’ll have the option of an RSV vaccine at 32-26 weeks, to give any of Skyler’s future siblings their best chance at fighting off the serious respiratory virus.

“You’re getting the injection, and I feel like it’s a safer and less invasive way to get them those antibodies and to start getting their immune system up and running without giving it straight to them,” said Thomas.

“This is certainly something that’s very serious and affects very young children in a very serious way. Morbidity and mortality from the virus is high. So it’s something we need tools against,” said Dr. Greg Marchand, and OB-GYN with the Marchand Institute.

He said he likes the strategy of protecting babies from RSV through their moms.

“The data behind it protecting against RSV is really extremely strong data. It showed 80% decreases in RSV infections in babies particularly in the first three months. But that protection did last to a lesser degree out to six months. So this was a lot of protection, and will likely prevent a lot of hospitalizations,” Dr. Marchand said.

However, he said the clinical trial of this vaccine showed a 17% increase in preterm labor and preterm births in women who had the vaccine.

“Pfizer, did this study the Matisse study but Glasgow Smith Kline tried to approve a similar vaccine a few years ago and they actually stopped their randomized, clinical trial last year because they saw the same thing, an increase in preterm births, and they actually felt it was unethical to go forward. So they actually stopped that trial,” he said.

Doctor Marchand said he’d like to see a shorter, later window for administering the vaccine and stronger language about who it is best suited for.

“Perhaps reserving this for babies that really need it. Maybe babies that were predicting are going to be born preterm or perhaps babies that have a known genetic and immunocompromised states,” he said.

“When I was doing some of my own research, if you get into the scientific journals and you look at the statistics of the amount of antibodies that babies are born with, with or without their mother getting vaccinated during pregnancy, it’s amazing,” said Thomas.

Kelly is confident this is the safer way to go and believes the benefits will outweigh the risks, but she knows this is a personal decision pregnant women will make with their doctors.