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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a deadly respiratory virus, has swamped hospitals globally. “Most of the [Connecticut] hospitals are packed, and they need to build tents outside some hospitals to meet [the demand of] the children who are infected for RSV,” said Zhe Zheng, a PhD candidate at the Yale School of Public Health. Critically, the virus has no vaccine or other effective, widely accessible prevention method.
However, Zheng’s analysis of clinical trial results for three prevention strategies in development proves there is hope ahead. First, extended half-life monoclonal antibodies, blood proteins that counteract pathogens, already have approval in the European Union but could take another year or two to be approved in the United States. The second, a maternal immunization, has promising clinical trial results but hasn’t yet been filed for approval. According to Zheng’s findings, each could avert more than half of RSV hospitalizations in children under six months. Live-attenuated vaccines proved highly effective for children between six months and five years, though they are still in the early stages of development.
An important question Zheng shed light on relating to these prevention strategies involves the efficacy of seasonal versus yearly vaccination plans. While previously reliably seasonal, COVID has made RSV’s seasons irregular, in addition to differences between seasonality in northern and southern states. “A seasonal program may provide minor [cost] advantages over a year-round [program], but the year-round would cover more children,” Zheng said. Zheng’s research compares RSV prevention methods and discusses the best method of distribution—information that could relieve overwhelmed hospitals and save children’s lives.