It’s Time For Cascade County Babies And Older Adults To Get An RSV immunization

10:33 AM, Jan 10, 2024
10:33 AM, Jan 10, 2024

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It’s the season for respiratory syncytial virus — better known as RSV — which means it’s time for babies, pregnant people, and older adults to get immunized.

“RSV could happen any time of year, but it follows the same pattern as the flu season, so fall through winter and into late winter, early spring,” said Ben Spencer, the communication and privacy officer at Cascade City-County Health Department.

Though RSV usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms, it can also cause severe illness — such as bronchiolitis or pneumonia — in babies and older adults that could require hospitalization. In fact, RSV is one of the most common illnesses that sends infants to the hospital.

“Immunization is the best way to prevent a significant health outcome from infection,” health department medical director Pauline Conway said.

During the 2022-2023 respiratory illness season, Cascade County had 456 cases of RSV. Health department officials are hoping to prevent cases this year by offering one of two immunizations to adults 60 and older and to babies in the following categories:

● Babies six months and younger.
● American Indian or Alaska Native babies eight months and younger.
● Babies six to eight months old who have health conditions that put them at high risk for severe disease.

Additionally, people who are 32-36 weeks pregnant should be immunized, with a doctor’s recommendation.

“Similar to other vaccines given during pregnancy, babies can be protected for a period of time after they’re born through passive immunity. This is when antibodies—immune memory cells—from the mother pass to the fetus through the placenta during pregnancy,” Spencer said.

How RSV immunizations work

The adult RSV vaccine works like a traditional vaccine, while the infant RSV immunization works differently. A traditional vaccine provides the body with active immunity because it stimulates the immune system to produce its own infection-fighting cells.

The infant RSV vaccine, on the other hand, provides passive immunity because it gives disease-fighting protection but does not stimulate the immune system to produce its own protection.

“It is truly only going to last for one RSV season,” Spencer said.

Abrysvo is a traditional RSV vaccine recommended for pregnant people and adults 60 and older. It is 89% effective at preventing lung infections for the season, Spencer said.

Nirsevimab, the prescribed medication for infants, lasts for at least five months, long enough to get babies through their first and most risky RSV season. Because the body passes protection to fetuses during pregnancy, babies born more than 14 days after the pregnant parent gets an RSV shot do not need their own immunization.

Walk-in immunizations for RSV

Beginning in 2024, the Cascade City-County Health Department is offering RSV immunizations and some other common immunizations on a walk-in basis, and an appointment is not needed. Walk-ins are welcome at the department’s building located at 115 4th Street South in Great Falls, every Monday-Friday from 8:00am to 4:30pm.

The health department requests that people bring insurance cards and, if pregnant, a letter from a health care provider recommending RSV immunization. Insurance will cover RSV immunizations, except for some types of Medicare insurance.

“Unlike most immunizations, only Medicare plans that include Part D coverage will pay for RSV immunizations,” Spencer said.

Without insurance, the RSV shot cost is $550. Infants from birth to six months without health insurance can receive a free RSV shot because the health department has secured vaccines through the federal Vaccines for Children program.

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