What is RSV? RSV, respiratory syncytial virus, is a highly contagious virus infecting the lungs and breathing passages in people of all ages. This is a seasonal virus that usually starts in the fall and culminates in the winter. It frequently causes lower respiratory tract diseases (LRTD) in older adults such as pneumonia, bronchiolitis, or long term lung or heart conditions. RSV leads to relatively 6,000-10,000 deaths annually among adults 65 years and older in the United States. RSV is additionally very prevalent in children younger than 5 years old, but they generally have a much better recovery rate than the older population. The FDA panel actively is recommending development of a vaccine that prevents RSV in infants, but as of now, there is no vaccine approved for this age group.
In May of 2023, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved Arexvy, the first RSV vaccine approved for use in the United States. Arexvy was approved for the prevention of lower respiratory tract disease caused by RSV in individuals 60 years of age and older. This vaccine will be administered prophylactically to prevent the development of RSV-associated conditions which can oftentimes be fatal.
Arexvy is a single dose (0.5 mL) intramuscular injection similar to a seasonal flu shot. The clinical studies tested participants in age ranges of 60-69, 70-79, and those 80 and older. The most commonly reported local adverse effect was injection site pain (60.9%) with 1% of less reporting swelling or redness. The most prevalent reported systemic adverse reactions were fatigue (33.6%), myalgia/muscle aches (28.9%), headache (27.2%) and arthralgia/joint pain (18.1%). These were generally mild to moderate symptoms with the only contraindication listed simply as a patient being allergic to any component of the vaccine.
This study excluded participants who were immunocompromised having a pre-existing, chronic, stable disease. Arexvy was found to be 94.6% effective in those with at least one underlying medical condition. No evidence was detected for interference in immune response to the flu shot, Fluarix Quadrivalent, or Arexvy when given together or one month apart; this vaccine does not contain any preservatives. During the clinical trials, it was found that compared to the control (placebo) group, those who received Arexvy had significantly declined the risk of developing RSV-associated LRTD by 82.6% and declined the risk of developing severe RSV-associated LRTD by 94.1%.
Kohll’s Rx actively assists patients by minimizing RSV symptoms with the use of medications. There are several over-the-counter products used to relieve fever or pain such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Other symptoms that we can aid in treating consists of coughing, wheezing, or in severe cases, treatment of asthma or COPD with prescription medications and nebulizer devices.
This vaccine is set to become available to the US public before the 2023/24 RSV season. Since the approval of Arexvy, there is a current goal of expanding to ages 50-59 in future trials. Recently, as of June 7th, the European Commission authorized Arexvy in 30 European countries. The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices is meeting on June 21st to make recommendations on the appropriate utilization of the vaccine in the US. This will likely include when Arexvy will become available to the public, and the duration of its effectiveness. Although no pharmacies are currently offering this vaccination, we hope to add it to our plethora of vaccines available at Kohll’s Rx very soon. We look forward to being able to safely administer and educate all of you that are 60 and older on Arexvy later this year!