5 Things to Know About the RSV Vaccine

Medically Reviewed By Nick Villalobos, MD

Vaccines are now available to protect against severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection. Understanding your risk can help you consider the vaccine as a prevention step before the RSV season.

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RSV is the cause of many lower respiratory tract infections. While RSV infection is usually mild and symptoms improve quickly in children and adults without chronic conditions, it can lead to complications in older adults and people living with chronic diseases.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source suggests that adults 60 and older, pregnant people, infants, and some children get the vaccine.

If you’re an older adult, getting the vaccine could protect you against serious RSV complications like pneumonia, congestive heart failure, and bronchiolitis.

Before you make an appointment to get your vaccine, it’s important to talk with your doctor to consider how the vaccine can protect you and the side effects it might cause. Here are five things to know about the RSV vaccine.

1. You have two vaccines to choose from

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved two RSV vaccines for adults 60 and older. They are: Arexvy Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source and Abrysvo Trusted Source Food and Drug Administration (FDA) Governmental authority Go to source .

Both are recombinant protein vaccines. They can help your immune system produce antibodies against RSV to protect you from infection.

The main difference between the two vaccines is that Arexvy contains an adjuvant — a substance that may help boost the vaccine’s effectiveness. However, both vaccines can protect against severe illness from the virus.

In research reviews, Arexvy was more than 82% Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  effective at preventing lower respiratory tract disease from RSV, while Abrysvo was nearly 67% Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source  effective.

The CDC doesn’t recommend Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source  one RSV vaccine over another.

2. People with chronic illnesses may need this vaccine the most

While the FDA approved RSV vaccines for adults 60 and older, certain groups of people may benefit, including those who:

If you’re in one of these groups, the vaccine can protect you against severe complications from RSV.

3. You only need one dose — for now

Unlike the flu shot, you don’t need to get the RSV vaccine every year. The vaccine appears to protect for two Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source seasons. Experts are studying whether people may eventually need more doses.

A great time to get a vaccine is before RSV season starts in the fall and early winter. The CDC Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source  recommends getting the vaccine as soon as it’s available. 

Getting your RSV, flu, and COVID-19 shots together may be safe if that’s easier for you. However, getting these vaccines together might increase the risk of side effects like fever and injection site soreness.

4. RSV vaccine side effects are usually mild

The most common side effects people report after getting the RSV vaccine are:

These side effects are usually mild and go away within a few days. 

RSV clinical trials reported a few cases of more serious side effects, including Guillain-Barré syndrome.

Researchers don’t know whether the vaccine or something else caused these side effects. Your doctor can help you weigh the benefits and risks of getting the vaccine before recommending it to you.

5. Wait to get your shot if you have a serious infection

A minor cold shouldn’t usually prevent you from getting the RSV vaccine. If you have a more serious infection, like pneumonia or bronchitis, reschedule your appointment after your symptoms improve. If you’re severely allergic to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, avoid it entirely.

Takeaway

If you’re 60 or older, the RSV vaccine can protect you against this sometimes serious respiratory infection, especially if you have a chronic condition.

A good time to get a vaccine is before the fall and winter RSV season. A conversation with your primary care doctor or pharmacist can help you understand this vaccine’s benefits and possible risks.

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  1. Abbasi HQ, et al. (2023). Revitalizing hope for older adults: The use of the novel Arexvy for immunization against respiratory syncytial virus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10617982/
  2. Abrysvo. (2023). https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/abrysvo
  3. Arexvy. (2023). https://www.fda.gov/vaccines-blood-biologics/arexvy
  4. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). (n.d.). https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/lung-disease-lookup/rsv
  5. Respiratory syncytial virus infection (RSV). (2023). https://www.cdc.gov/rsv/index.html
  6. RSV (respiratory syncytial virus). (2023). https://www.hhs.gov/immunization/diseases/rsv/index.html
  7. Ruckwardt TJ. (2023). The road to approved vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC10519952/
  8. Vaccines and preventable diseases. (2016). https://www.cdc.gov/vaccines/vpd/index.html

Medical Reviewer: Nick Villalobos, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 Jan 2
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