Understanding the RSV Vaccine in Pregnancy: What Expecting Parents Need to Know

Abrysvo is the correct RSV vaccine for pregnancy. Arexvy is not for use in pregnancy.

As an expecting parent, ensuring the health and well-being of both yourself and your baby is a top priority. One important aspect of prenatal care that often comes up is vaccination. Today, we’ll discuss the new RSV vaccine in pregnancy – what it is, why it’s important, and what you need to know.

What is RSV?

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, is a common respiratory virus that can affect people of all ages. In infants, particularly those under the age of one, RSV can lead to severe respiratory illness, including bronchiolitis (infection of the small airways) and pneumonia.

RSV Vaccine in Pregnancy

In the Fall of 2023, the FDA approved two new vaccines designed to prevent RSV infection – Abrysvo and Arexvy. However, only Abrysvo was approved to administer to pregnant people in order to protect their baby after birth. Both of these vaccines are intended for adult use only and, in fact, animal data from Arexvy testing suggest that the vaccine may worsen RSV infection if given directly to children 2 and younger.

The Abrysvo vaccine is approved for pregnant people who are at increased risk of exposure to RSV or who are likely to give birth during the RSV season (between September and January). This includes people with certain medical conditions or those who have a higher likelihood of encountering RSV in their community or workplace setting.

Why is Only the Abrysvo Vaccine Approved in Pregnancy?

While both RSV vaccines are approved for use in adults, only Abrysvo is approved for use during pregnancy. That’s because Arexvy was shown to increase the risk of preterm birth during clinical trials. It should be noted that in clinical trials, people who got the Abrysvo vaccine also had slightly higher rates of preterm birth when compared to those who received placebo, but this difference was not statistically significant.

As an aside, the pharmaceutical industry deserves a bit of a slap on the wrist for releasing two similar vaccines with such similar names but with clear limitations on who can get what. There have already been cases of pregnant people getting the wrong vaccine. If you’re considering the vaccine, be sure you are getting the Abrysvo vaccine. (I think Abrysvo rhymes with Preggo – not perfect but hopefully that helps you remember).

When Should the RSV Vaccine be Administered?

The RSV vaccine should be administered during the third trimester of pregnancy, preferably between 28 and 36 weeks.

Should I Get the RSV Vaccine During Pregnancy?

As with all healthcare decisions, you should consider your options with your own personal preferences and circumstances in mind. On the one hand, RSV infection can be quite serious for babies – nearly 7% of young babies who are infected with RSV die from their infection. On the other hand, an increased risk of preterm birth should not be taken lightly. The Abrysvo clinical trials excluded people with high-risk pregnancies, including those with preexisting risk for preterm birth. If you were at risk of preterm birth already, you may want to consider holding off on the vaccine until the end of the 28-to-36-week window.

Potential Side Effects and Risks

Like any vaccine, the RSV vaccine may cause some mild side effects, such as soreness at the injection site or mild fever. If you’ve had a serious adverse reaction to a vaccine in the past or if you have complex health concerns, you should talk with your healthcare provider before getting this or any other vaccine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the RSV vaccine safe for nursing parents?

Yes, the RSV vaccine is considered safe for nursing parents and does not pose any known risk to nursing infants.

Can the RSV vaccine be given alongside other vaccines?

Yes, the RSV vaccine can be administered at the same time as other routine vaccinations recommended during pregnancy.

Conclusion:

In conclusion, the RSV vaccine in pregnancy is an important tool in protecting newborns from severe respiratory illness caused by RSV. As always, consider your own personal preferences and circumstances when making any healthcare decision. If you have any questions or concerns about the RSV vaccine, don’t hesitate to speak with your healthcare provider.

To learn more about our prenatal care, where you always have the opportunity to ask questions and discuss your healthcare choices in an inclusive, affirming, and non-judgmental space, sign up for a free Meet the Midwife session

Signature card for Kelly Wong McGrath
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