Sep 7, 2023, 10:29:35 PM CDT Feb 5, 2024, 1:20:40 PM CST

Should my baby get the RSV shot?

A Children’s Health expert answers questions about the shot that prevents RSV in babies

Newborn baby being held by mom Newborn baby being held by mom

For years, there was no medicine to prevent RSV in babies. August 2023 marked a significant milestone with the first widely available RSV prevention for babies. We recently discussed frequently asked questions and what parents should know about this new shot with Andrew Gelfand, M.D., Chief of Pulmonology and Sleep Medicine at Children's Health℠ and Clinical Professor at UT Southwestern.

RSV is a common respiratory virus. It spreads through the air, typically during the winter months. In older children and adults, RSV typically feels like a bad cold, and people get better with rest and supportive care. However, RSV can be serious for infants, especially those with an underlying health condition.

"RSV can cause significant airway swelling. With older children and adults, this airway swelling isn't usually serious. But because babies' airways are so small to begin with, this swelling can significantly restrict airflow," says Dr. Gelfand.

What is the new RSV shot for babies?

The new RSV prevention medication is called nirsevimab (also called Beyfortus). The shot has minimal side effects and should be broadly covered by insurance.

"This is the first RSV prevention medication and it's a huge advance," Dr. Gelfand says. "Studies show it decreases the risk of hospitalization for babies with RSV by 70% and reduces the need for intensive care by 90%."

This medicine can protect babies from severe RSV infections for around 5 months. RSV typically spreads seasonally, from November to March, so this shot should offer protection for the duration of a typical RSV season.

When can babies get the RSV shot?

There is currently a shortage of nirsevimab for the 2023-2024 season. During the shortage, the shot is being prioritized for infants younger than 6 months and infants who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease.

We recommend asking your pediatrician about its availability and whether your baby is eligible.

Where can my baby get the RSV shot?

Your baby may be able to receive their RSV shot at their birthing hospital or pediatrician's office. Ask your pediatrician if they have the shot available. It is safe for your baby to receive this shot at the same time as other recommended immunizations.

Is the RSV shot safe for babies?

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) says the shot is safe for babies and listed only very minor side effects.

"This shot is very safe and well tolerated for babies," Dr. Gelfand says. "There were only mild side effects typical with any shot which were pain or redness at the injection site. It also should not cause any side effects like fever or chills."

What are other ways to prevent RSV in infants?

Maternal RSV vaccine

In August 2023, the FDA approved a new RSV shot called Abrysvo for those who are between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant to prevent severe RSV disease in infants. Similar to the RSV shot for infants, Abrysvo will be offered during RSV season.

Most infants will only need either Abrysvo or the nirsevimab, not both. However, if the baby is born less than two weeks after their mother gets the maternal RSV vaccine, then a doctor may recommend nirsevimab.

Take precautions

You can also help prevent RSV by minimizing risk of exposure. You can do this by:

  • Keeping your baby away from people who are sick
  • Frequent hand washing
  • Avoiding large public gatherings during RSV season, especially places with lots of children
  • Keeping your child at home if they are sick to avoid spreading RSV and other illnesses

Learn more

Children's Health Primary Care offers comprehensive health care for children from birth through young adulthood. Our pediatricians combine quality care with evidence-based practice to meet your child's medical needs. Learn more and find a pediatrician.

Screen capture of family newsletter signup

Thank you!

You are now subscribed to the Children's Health Family Newsletter.

Children's Health will not sell, share or rent your information to third parties. Please read our privacy policy.

Children's Health Family Newsletter

Get health tips and parenting advice from Children's Health experts sent straight to your inbox twice a month.

common cold, infant, respiratory, treatment, virus, immune system, fever, newborn, treatment, breathing, cold

Childrens Health