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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination programme

Last reviewed dd mmm yyyy. Last edited dd mmm yyyy

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Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an RNA virus of Paramyxoviridae family within the Pneumovirus genus (1):

  • is in the same family as the human parainfluenza viruses and mumps and measles viruses
  • is one of the common viruses that cause coughs and colds in winter
  •  is transmitted by large droplets and by secretions from contact with an infected person
  • infants under one year of age and the elderly are at the greatest risk of developing severe disease
    • while most RSV infections usually cause mild illness, infants aged less than 6 months frequently develop the most severe disease such as bronchiolitis and pneumonia, which may result in hospitalisation

A severe lower respiratory tract disease with pneumonitis may develop in the elderly, in institutionalised adults, and in immunocompromised individuals. (2)

Previous infection may only confer partial immunity to RSV and hence individuals may be infected repeatedly with the same or different strains of RSV (1).

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an enveloped RNA virus.

In the UK, from 1 September 2024, two new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination programmes will be introduced:

Programme for older adults aged 75 to 79 years old

  • all adults turning 75 years old on or after 1 September 2024 will be eligible for the routine programme and should be offered a single dose of the RSV vaccine
  • a one-off catch-up campaign for those already aged 75 to 79 years old on 1 September 2024 will be undertaken at the earliest opportunity.

Programme for pregnant women to protect infants

  • all women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant (the eligible cohort) on 1 September 2024, will be offered a single dose of the RSV vaccine. After that, pregnant women will become eligible as they reach 28 weeks gestation and remain eligible up to birth
    • women will be offered the RSV vaccine during every pregnancy
  • benefits to unborn child (4)
    • vaccine boosts the maternal immune system to produce more antibodies against the virus
      • these antibodies then pass through the placenta to help protect the unborn child from the day they are born
      • RSV vaccination reduces the risk of severe bronchiolitis by 70% in the first 6 months of life
  • safety of RSV vaccination in pregnancy (4)
    • RSV vaccine has been studied in clinical trials of almost 4,000 women and been given to many thousands of women in national programmes
    • monitoring in the USA, where it has been given to over 100,000 women, has shown a good safety profile
    • in the main clinical trial, in the month after vaccination, there were slightly more premature babies in the vaccine group (2.1%) than the group that didn’t have the vaccine (1.9%) - however it was stated that this difference was most likely to be due to chance


  1. Immunisation Against Infectious Disease - "The Green Book". Chapter 27. Respiratory syncytial virus (January 2013)
  2. Moore EC, Barber J, Tripp RA. Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) attachment and nonstructural proteins modify the type I interferon response associated with suppressor of cytokine signaling (SOCS) proteins and IFN-stimulated gene-15 (ISG15). Virol J. 2008;5:116.
  3. UK Health Security Agency (June 24th 2024). Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccination programme.
  4. UK Health Security Agency (July 12th 2024). A guide to RSV vaccination for pregnant women.

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