After years of failure, positive RSV vaccination data raises expectations.

On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, Pfizer released new research demonstrating that vaccination during pregnancy helps protect newborns from the ordinary but frightening respiratory infection that annually floods hospitals with wheezing infants.

The Vaccine

The preliminary findings give rise to optimism that, after decades of frustration and failure, vaccinations against RSV may finally be on the horizon.

According to an extensive international trial, Pfizer reported on Tuesday vaccinating expectant mothers was approximately 82% successful in avoiding severe RSV cases during their newborns’ most vulnerable first 90 days of life. At six months old, the vaccine was still demonstrating a 69% effectiveness against severe sickness, and neither moms nor infants showed any signs of safety issues.

The vice president of viral vaccines at Pfizer, virologist Kena Swanson, stated that mothers constantly give their antibodies to their children. The vaccine improves their chances of developing and transmitting RSV-blocking antibodies.

The quest for vaccines goes beyond baby protection. RSV poses a risk to older persons as well, and competitors GSK and Pfizer recently declared that their competing vaccines had also proven protective for seniors.

This year, when an early RSV outbreak has already clogged up children’s hospitals, none of the findings will be helpful. However, they offer the possibility that one or more vaccines may become accessible before the RSV season in the fall of next year.

Dr. William Schaffner, an expert in infectious diseases at Vanderbilt University, stated, “My fingers are crossed.” “We’re progressing,”

The information from Tuesday was published in a press release and was not verified by other specialists.

RSV

RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, causes cold-like symptoms in most healthy people. However, it can be catastrophic, even fatal, for those who are very young, old, or have particular health issues. The virus can cause pneumonia by infecting deep within the lungs, and it can also obstruct a baby’s ability to breathe by inflaming their tiny airways.

Each year, RSV causes roughly 58,000 children under five to be hospitalized, and several hundred pass away. About 177,000 older persons are hospitalized with RSV, with 14,000 passing away each year.

RSV kills over 100,000 kids a year globally, especially in developing nations.

The entire field was put back by a catastrophe in the 1960s. By producing and destroying the RSV virus in a lab, researchers created an experimental RSV vaccine using the same methodology that produced the first polio vaccine. However, tests on children revealed that not only was the vaccine not protective but also children who contracted RSV after receiving the shot suffered worse. Two people passed away.

Even though science advanced for 20 years, Schaffner claimed that no one wanted even to consider developing an RSV vaccine.

He pointed out that elderly adults, not youngsters, were used to test even the current RSV vaccine candidates.

Development has resumed.

The immune system detects a virus’s outer surface when a germ invades, and current vaccinations typically target this surface. The so-called F protein, which aids the virus in attaching to human cells, is the target for RSV. That protein is a shape-shifter, changing its form before and after it “fuses” to cells, presenting another challenge.

Jason McLellan, a structural biologist at the University of Texas at Austin, claims that the immune system only generates effective anti-RSV antibodies when it identifies the pre-fusion protein.

They were at the National Institutes of Health in 2013 when McLellan and virologist Barney Graham zeroed in on the ideal shape and discovered how to freeze it in that form. This discovery paved the door for the current research and development of numerous potential RSV vaccines.

Pipeline Contains

Several businesses are developing RSV vaccinations, but Pfizer and competitor GSK are the most advanced. Both businesses recently announced results from testing on senior citizens. Although the rival vaccines are constructed somewhat differently, each has proven effective, particularly against deadly diseases. By the end of the year, both businesses want to apply for regulatory permission in the United States and other nations.

The evidence on older adults “looks good,” according to McLellan, who has closely followed the vaccine’s development. I think we are heading on the right path.

Additionally, if immunizing expectant mothers proves successful, it might be “a win for two individuals instead of just one” because it would protect both the expectant mother and the unborn child, according to Dr. Wilbur Chen of the University of Maryland School of Medicine.

Pfizer’s maternal vaccine has the same formula as the older adult vaccines it successfully tested; by year’s end, it also intends to apply for FDA approval for those shots.

New Study

The new study included many RSV seasons and 7,400 pregnant women from 18 nations, including the United States. According to preliminary findings released Tuesday, the vaccine proved most effective against serious illness. Effectiveness ranged from 51% to 57% for milder illnesses, falling short of the study’s statistical standards but still being considered clinically significant by Pfizer because it would result in fewer visits to the doctor.

Gloria Flynt

I am a Research Content Specialist in Update.co.ke. I have been working with update.co.ke for over 6 months. Update.co.ke is a digital platform that provides news and analysis on business, economy, technology and entrepreneurship in worldwide. I love reading and writing about anything that has to do with science, technology, and developments in the digital world.

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