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Northwell Physicians Recommend RSV Vaccine For Baby’s Safety

Long Island mom Lauren Charles has seen what respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can do to an infant. RSV is responsible for more than 50,000 pediatric hospitalizations across the United States each year.

Ms. Charles’ own daughter, struggling to breathe, landed in the emergency department at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in 2022 with RSV. The infant recovered, but the ordeal suck with the family. Now 33 weeks pregnant with her second child,  Ms. Charles, 36, of Old Bethpage, is agreed to get the newly-approved RSV vaccine to confer immediate protection once her baby is born.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Pfizer’s Abrysvo in August, the first RSV vaccine approved for use in pregnant individuals to prevent lower respiratory tract disease in infants from birth through six months of age. The vaccine, administered as a single dose injection into the muscle of the expectant mom, is approved for use at 32-36 weeks of pregnancy.

“You can get RSV over and over again, similar to influenza,” said Bruce Garber, MD, chief of Public Health and Epidemiology and an infectious disease expert at Northwell Health. “There are two strains of RSV and both are covered by the vaccine. The vaccine will not give lifelong immunity. You’ll be protected for at least one season – the jury is still out on a second year.”

Ms. Charles was vaccinated in front of TV cameras as part of a public health awareness event by Katz Women’s Hospital at Long Island Jewish (LIJ) Medical Center today. Dr. Farber said RSV cases have plateaued at Northwell Health, New York State’s largest health system. Northwell is responsible for about 1 percent of all births nationwide.

“My first child had RSV when she was 1 1/2, so this is definitely a game-changer,” said Ms. Charles, who works as a transplant nurse at North Shore University Hospital in Manhasset. “Now my daughter is in day care and bringing home germs every day, so we are definitely at risk for all kinds of infections. Anything we can do to help offset that once our new child arrives is beneficial.”

Another woman who decided to get vaccinated was Arianna Kaufman, 28, of Forest Hills, NY, now 34 weeks pregnant with her first child. A forensic social worker, Ms. Kaufman and her husband tried to get pregnant for more than two years. Her own fertility journey made the decision an easy one.

“I trust modern medicine,” she said. “I cannot imagine doing everything I possibly can today to protect myself and my baby.”

In addition to the vaccine during pregnancy, monoclonal antibodies can be given directly to a newborn, although there’s currently a national shortage.

“Why would you not want to get the RSV vaccine when it means that you are offering so much more protection for your baby and there is no downside?” said Sarah Pachtman, MD, an obstetrician at Northwell Health who serves as Ms. Charles’ and Ms. Kaufman’s OB-GYN.

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