Canada’s Ministry of Health has approved the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) targeting the elderly.
RSV is an infectious virus that causes respiratory tract infections. It can lead to severe illness in older adults and even result in hospitalization.
The newly approved vaccine, named Arexvy, will be available for adults aged 60 and above.
According to the manufacturer GSK, clinical trials have shown that the Arexvy vaccine is 82% effective in preventing lower respiratory tract illness caused by RSV in older adults. Its effectiveness increases to 94% for elderly individuals with underlying health conditions.
However, Canada’s Ministry of Health has cautioned that the vaccine may only be available in “limited” quantities for this fall’s RSV season. The vaccine is described by Canada’s Ministry of Health as a single-dose shot, but it’s unclear whether individuals will need annual or booster shots.
RSV season in Canada typically starts in late fall and extends through spring.
Last winter was a particularly harsh RSV season in the country, especially for young children.
Aside from the elderly, infants are at a higher risk of contracting RSV.
There is currently no RSV vaccine for children, but there are two monoclonal antibody treatments that can be administered to high-risk infants to prevent severe illness.
One of these, palivizumab, is typically given to premature infants – however, this medication needs to be administered approximately once a month during the RSV season to maintain its efficacy.
A new monoclonal antibody treatment – nirsevimab, also known by the brand name Beyfortus – was approved by Canada’s Ministry of Health in April. Nirsevimab requires only a single injection to protect infants during RSV season.
It’s currently unclear whether there will be a recommendation to administer the nirsevimab vaccine to infants in Canada this fall.