As cases rise, doctors recommend expecting mothers nearing birth, older adults get RSV vaccine

Dec. 1, 2023, 6 a.m. ·

RSV virus under a microscope
The respiratory syncytial virus, known as "RSV," under a microscope. (Photo courtesy the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)

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Expecting mothers late in their pregnancy and adults 60-years-old and older should get the RSV vaccine, according to CHI Health doctors.

Dr. Michael Schooff, a primary care medical director for CHI Health, said RSV can have a severe impact on infants and older adults.

“They can get into a bronchiolitis or a pneumonia. Deeper and more severe infections in the lung can lead to difficulty breathing,” Schooff said. “People might need to go to the ER. Sometimes people need to be hospitalized and have help with breathing during these illnesses. And yes, sometimes it is fatal.”

Last week, the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services reported more than 280 RSV cases. Dr. John Cote, an OB/GYN for CHI Health, said he expects to see this number continue to increase and eventually peak in late December.

He said it’s important for pregnant women to get the RSV vaccine at least two weeks before giving birth.

“We’re giving it to the mom’s to protect the babies because the babies don’t have that innate immunity,” Cote said. “They don’t have the memory immune cells that can actually protect them, and that’s why certain vaccines are given in pregnancy, is to try to protect the baby before the baby is born.”

According to Cote, there hasn’t been enough research on how the vaccine impacts mothers who breastfeed. For those who can’t get the vaccine, there are antibodies that can be given to their child after birth. However, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, those antibodies are in short supply.

Cote recommended pregnant women check with their doctor to come up with a plan that works for them to best protect their baby against RSV.

There is one vaccine available for expecting mothers, and two available for those 60 and over. These vaccines are in their second year of use for the RSV season.

Anyone with health insurance can get the RSV vaccine for free. It costs between $150 to $300 for those who are uninsured depending on who administers the vaccination, according to Schooff.