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Want to protect yourself and your family against RSV? Start with a vaccine.

When you’re preparing for respiratory illness season, you probably get a flu shot. Maybe a COVID-19 vaccine. And if you’re looking for a way to safeguard your family against RSV, protecting everyone just got easier with an FDA-approved RSV vaccine and monoclonal antibody treatment.

What is RSV?

RSV (or respiratory syncytial virus) is a highly contagious lung infection. “It can cause serious complications, especially in young children and adults with a weakened immune system,” says Stanley Martin, MD, system director of infectious diseases at Geisinger.

Those most at risk for contracting RSV include:

  • Premature infants
  • Infants under 6 months old
  • Children and adults with weakened immune systems (such as those being treated for cancer)
  • Children and adults with chronic heart or lung conditions
  • Adults over 65

RSV spreads through direct contact with a sick person or through infected respiratory droplets in the air. The virus can also live for hours on hard surfaces. It can enter the body through the eyes, nose or mouth. That means you could be infected by touching a contaminated object, then rubbing your eye. 

What is the RSV vaccine?

The vaccine is a single injection to help prevent respiratory syncytial virus. This safe, effective immunization can not only reduce your risk of getting RSV, but it can also lower the risk of serious illness that requires hospitalization.

Like other shots, it works by introducing an inactive protein into the body. “After you receive the injection, your immune system starts working to produce antibodies,” Dr. Martin says. “Those antibodies help protect against RSV.”

For infants, a monoclonal antibody can be given to build immunity against RSV. “This isn’t the same as a vaccine,” he explains. “The antibody treatment gives antibodies directly to the body to help fight off an RSV infection.”

Who can get the RSV vaccine?

The RSV shot is recommended for:

  • Adults over 60 who may be at risk
  • Pregnant people during weeks 32 to 36 of pregnancy

The monoclonal antibody is recommended for: 

  • Infants from birth to 8 months old in their first RSV season

For maximum protection, think about timing.

If you’re over 60 and considering the vaccine, start by having a conversation with your healthcare provider. They can look at your risk factors to help you decide if the shot is right for you.

Pregnant people between weeks 32 and 36 of pregnancy are recommended to consider the upcoming respiratory viral season (typically September through January) to prevent RSV in their babies once they’re born.

“The antibody treatment for infants can provide protection for at least five months,” says Dr. Martin. “If given at the right time, it can last through RSV season.”

Want to learn more about the RSV vaccine or antibody treatment? Talk to your healthcare provider. They can help you decide if it’s right for you or your family.

What are the side effects of the RSV vaccine?

Side effects of the RSV vaccine include:

  • Pain, swelling or redness at the injection site
  • Tiredness
  • Low-grade fever
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Muscle aches
  • Joint pain

“The most common side effects of the antibody treatment are pain, redness or swelling at the injection site,” says Dr. Martin. “Whether you received the vaccine or treatment, most side effects are mild and go away in a day or two.”

Where can you get the RSV vaccine?

Wondering where to get the RSV vaccine? To schedule an RSV shot for yourself or an antibody treatment for your child, contact your healthcare provider.

After you get your shot, you’ll be protected. And you’ll help protect everyone around you. That means you’ll have more time to focus on feeling your best.

Next steps:

Schedule an appointment through MyGeisinger
Know the symptoms of RSV
Think you can’t get COVID and RSV at the same time? Think again.

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