Now is a good time to talk to the doctor to be sure your child is fully vaccinated. Many schools require children between 2 months and 18 years receive certain medications to attend. In addition, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have now officially recommended a new RSV antibody shot to protect infants and some high-risk children against RSV — the leading cause of infant hospitalization in the country.
Every year, the CDC, American Academy of Pediatrics, and other leading health care organizations publish a recommended vaccination schedule for children ages 18 or younger after a rigorous review of scientific data.
Health Matters spoke with Dr. Stockwell, who is also an associate professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons and of Population and Family Health at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health, to answer questions about vaccine safety, the new RSV shot, which vaccines children need and when they need them.
Are vaccines safe?
Dr. Stockwell: Absolutely. Today’s vaccines go through many years of rigorous testing before they are ever given to humans. This is all done to ensure they are safe, effective and include only the necessary ingredients.
When do vaccines typically start for children?
Vaccines start at birth and continue with a regular cadence of immunizations throughout childhood and adolescence.
Are children required to get vaccinated before starting school?
All states follow mandatory vaccination guidelines for children going to child care facilities (including day cares) and schools. This is to keep every child safe and protected from preventable diseases. Check the school’s health forms to know which vaccines your child needs in order to attend.
What do parents need to know about the new RSV antibody shot?
The new RSV antibody injection, named nirsevimab, provides infants and toddlers with antibodies to protect against severe RSV illness. The CDC recommends one dose for all infants younger than 8 months, who were either born during or entering their first RSV season. That’s when a baby is most at risk for severe illness. For a small group of children between the ages of 8 and 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease, a dose is recommended in their second RSV season.
The ideal timing is in the first week of life for infants born shortly before and during the season, and shortly before the start of the RSV season for infants less than 8 months old and those 8 to 19 months who are at increased risk of severe RSV disease.
Nirsevimab is safe and effective. In studies, it reduced the risk of medically-attended illness (meaning when children have to visit a physician office, urgent care, or emergency room, or need hospitalization) for RSV in infants by about 70 to 75%. Nearly every child will get an RSV infection by the time they are 2 years old. While much of the time RSV can be a mild, cold-like illness, it can also cause severe illness which is what we are trying to protect children from. Nirsevimab is expected to be available this fall.