A vaccine to combat a common seasonal virus among babies could reduce hospital admissions by more than 80%, a trial has shown.
Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) impacts 90% of children before they reach the age of two, often causing a mild cold-like illness.
But infection can also lead to severe lung problems like pneumonia, and an estimated 30,000 babies and youngsters are admitted to hospital in the UK each year – putting extra pressure on the NHS.
Scientists have said a jab called nirsevimab could offer a solution after a study suggested a single shot provided immediate protection against chest infections for up to six months.
The trial found this could lead to an 83% reduction in RSV-related hospital admissions.
It is already being rolled out in the US and Spain and is being considered for a UK rollout, where it has been approved but not yet made available on the NHS.
Experts who worked on the study said the findings showed it was safe and could protect thousands of babies.
What is nirsevimab?
Nirsevimab is a monoclonal antibody, which are man-made proteins designed to mimic the human immune system’s natural antibodies.
Like other vaccines, it is administered via an injection.
The study included 8,058 babies up to the age of 12 months, with a randomly assigned group of them given a single dose and the others given usual treatment.
Just 11 who got the jab ended up in hospital for RSV-related infections, compared to 60 in the standard group.
The researchers said this corresponded to an efficacy of 83.2%.
Jab could ‘dramatically’ help NHS
Sir Andrew Pollard, director of the Oxford Vaccine Group at the University of Oxford, said the jab could help combat a virus that places “huge pressure” on Britain’s health system.
During the past two winters, cases were higher than usual after COVID pandemic measures in previous years suppressed cases – meaning children had much lower immunity.
Sir Andrew said the jab could help “protect the youngest in society and dramatically alleviate winter strain in the NHS”.
One of the scientists involved in the study, Professor Saul Faust from the University of Southampton, said he hoped it would help the UK decide on how to proceed with a national vaccination rollout.
The University of Southampton was one of three UK universities whose experts worked on the research, along with University Hospital Southampton and St George’s University Hospital, London.
The research was funded by Sanofi and AstraZeneca and published in the New England Journal of Medicine.