Pfizer has created a “game-changing” vaccine that has been found to offer babies strong protection against RSV, a common cause of respiratory illness, in their first months. It is given to mothers who pass the immunity on to their unborn children so they are protected from the moment of birth. The trial results showed that in the first three months of life, babies whose mothers had had the vaccine were 80 per cent less likely to suffer severe illness from the respiratory syncytial virus.
In Britain, RSV is responsible for 30,000 infant hospitalisations and 80 deaths of children every year. Globally, it kills 100,000 children a year. After six months, the trial, involving 7,000 mothers, found that protection in offspring was still about 70 per cent. Chief scientific officer for vaccine research and development at Pfizer, Annaliesa Anderson, said the company was “thrilled” by the results and would seek regulators' approval.
Last month, pharmaceutical company GSK reported the results of a trial in elderly patients that showed their RSV vaccine had 80 per cent efficacy. Combined with the latest study, this raises hope that the burden of the virus could be significantly reduced. The results were released to the markets as a regulatory requirement.
Dr. Chrissie Jones, from the University of Southampton, said, “It is an absolute game changer and of high global importance. What is remarkable about this data is that high efficacy is still up to six months of age. If this vaccine is approved by regulatory agencies, this vaccine would have a substantial impact on admissions to hospitals for RSV disease. It is highly important for the UK, but crucial for low and middle-income countries.”
She added, “The data has not yet been peer-reviewed or published, so we need to assess the data in more detail, but this is extremely exciting, and we wait with bated breath to see if this vaccine receives a licence from regulatory agencies. We have been awaiting an effective solution to combat RSV for many years.”
Professor Beate Kampmann, director of the Vaccine Centre at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, agreed and added that the mode of delivery, through the mother, made the vaccine especially useful.