Cases of RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, are starting to pick up in the U.S., and for the first time, adults 60 and older have a way to lower their risk of getting sick with this common virus that sends as many as 177,000 Americans 65-plus to the hospital each year.
The Food and Drug Administration has approved two RSV vaccines for adults 60 and older, and the shots are available in pharmacies and doctors’ offices throughout the U.S. (Under 60? The FDA also approved an RSV vaccine for pregnant women and two RSV monoclonal antibodies for infants.)
Should you get it? Here’s what the experts say.
People at high risk will benefit the most
Unlike the flu shot and new COVID-19 vaccine, the RSV vaccines don’t come with a universal recommendation. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says older adults should talk to their doctor about whether they need a shot.
There are people “who are going to most benefit from this vaccine,” says Chad D. Neilsen, an infectious disease epidemiologist at University of Florida Health in Jacksonville — and it’s individuals who are at higher risk for severe illness from an RSV infection.
This population includes people who live in nursing homes and other group settings, individuals who are immunocompromised and adults who have underlying health conditions, such as:
- Diseases that affect the heart and lungs, including COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma
- Kidney disorders
- Liver disorders
- Neurologic or neuromuscular conditions
- Blood disorders