UF expert answers questions about the newly approved RSV vaccine

Headshot of Cindy Prins

On May 3, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved a vaccine manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline to prevent respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, in older adults. In clinical trials, the vaccine, called Arexvy, proved high vaccine efficacy. It was 83% effective at preventing lower respiratory tract disease in older adults and 94% effective at preventing severe disease. The drug maker expects to have RSV vaccines available before the 2023-2024 virus season.

Infectious disease epidemiologist Cindy Prins, Ph.D., M.P.H., a clinical associate professor of epidemiology at the University of Florida College of Public Health and Health Professions (part of UF Health, the university’s academic health center) and a member of UF’s Emerging Pathogens Institute, answers some common questions about RSV disease and the new vaccine.

Question: What is RSV and how can it affect older adults?

Answer: RSV is a respiratory virus that may cause cold-like symptoms in healthy adults and older children. But in infants, very young children and older adults, it can sometimes cause more serious disease leading to pneumonia and other infections, hospitalizations and even death. RSV infection can be very severe for older adults and younger children. We have recognized the problem of RSV in young children for a while now, but there has been less awareness of the effect it can have on older adults. Some adults who have contracted RSV have thought it was a bad cold or influenza-like illness, but it hasn’t necessarily been identified as RSV. Because of this, the number of RSV cases in older adults likely is undercounted. You may have heard people talking last fall about a tripledemic. This referred to a huge increase in RSV cases that we saw at the same time COVID and flu cases were rising.

This article was originally written by Jill Pease for UF PHHP. To read the rest of the Q&A, visit the PHHP website.