The world’s first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) was approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) on Wednesday.
The Arexvy vaccine, made by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), was approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in individuals 60 years of age and older, according to an FDA release.
“Older adults, in particular those with underlying health conditions, such as heart or lung disease or weakened immune systems, are at high risk for severe disease caused by RSV,” Peter Marks, director of the FDA’s Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research, said in the statement.
“Today’s approval of the first RSV vaccine is an important public health achievement to prevent a disease which can be life-threatening and reflects the FDA’s continued commitment to facilitating the development of safe and effective vaccines for use in the United States.”
RSV infection is a major cause of lower respiratory illness, particularly among infants, young children and older adults.
Canada currently does not have a vaccine for RSV.
However, Health Canada has accepted and is reviewing Pfizer Canada’s bivalent RSV vaccine for babies under six months and individuals aged 60 and above, the pharmaceutical company said in a statement on April 14.
The health agency is also reviewing GSK’s RSV vaccine for adults 60 years of age and older.
Several companies are creating RSV vaccines but Pfizer and rival GSK are furthest along. The competing vaccines are made somewhat differently but each proved strongly effective, especially against serious disease.
For most healthy people, RSV is a cold-like nuisance.
For the very young, the elderly and people with certain health problems, it can be serious, even life-threatening. The virus can infect deep in the lungs, causing pneumonia, and in babies it can impede breathing by inflaming tiny airways.
Like COVID-19, RSV spreads through respiratory droplets when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It can also spread by kissing or coming in contact with surfaces contaminated with the virus.
Worldwide, RSV kills about 100,000 children a year, mostly in poor countries.
This flu season, Canada saw a rise in cases of RSV among children and older adults, filling hospitals across the country. This was partly because the COVID-19 pandemic health measures in previous years protected against those viruses as well.
— With files from the Associated Press and Global News’ Saba Aziz
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