Study Highlights Reduced Disease Severity When Vaccinated Against RSV


The severity of RSV disease among adults further highlights how crucial vaccine polices and recommendations are.

New study findings published in JAMA Network, showed that 16-months following respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine recommendations, RSV disease severity was comparable to COVID-19 and influenza disease among unvaccinated individuals, but higher than COVID-19 and influenza disease among vaccinated individuals.1

Bottles of vaccine for Influenza Virus, Respiratory Syncytial virus and Covid-19 for vaccination. Flu, RSV and Sars-cov-2 Coronavirus vaccine vials over Radiography pulmonar with stethoscope - Image credit: angellodeco |

Image credit: angellodeco |

The CDC Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended the use of both RSV vaccines from GSK and Pfizer in June 2023, for individuals 60 years and older. The vaccines should be administered after shared clinical decision-making with a health care provider to discuss the best course of action for the individual.2

RSV is reported to be the cause of severe respiratory diseases that occur in adults and can aggravate prior conditions like asthma, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, diabetes, and chronic heart failure. If impacted, the conditions could lead to pneumonia, hospitalization, or death.1,3

The study authors noted that an estimated 60,000 to 160,000 RSV-associated hospitalizations and 6000 to 10,000 deaths happen each year in the United States among individuals 65 years and older, highlighting the need for RSV protection.1

However, disease severity can impact the decision making when it comes to receiving an RSV vaccine, according to the study authors. When vaccinated, the immunization is reported to strengthen the host immunity against infection, commonly displayed in COVID-19 and influenza vaccines. As the 3 infections share seasonal strikes, the researchers compared disease severity in routine vaccines to protect against COVID-19 and influenza with RSV.1

“RSV—along with COVID-19 and influenza—form the current ‘tripledemic’ found across the United States this fall and winter,” said Simon Haeder, PhD, in a press release.4

The study authors included a total of 7998 individuals, 18 years and older in the cohort trial that all presented a positive test for RSV, COVID-19, or influenza and were hospitalized from February 1, 2022, to May 31, 2023. Among the 7998 individuals, 484 had RSV, 6422 has COVID-19, and 1092 had influenza.1

The researchers found that individuals hospitalized due to RSV were younger than those hospitalized for COVID-19 (median [IQR] age, 65 [53-75] years vs 68 [56-78] years; P = .002). However, there was not a significant difference among the influenza group. Additionally, the study authors noted that the RSV and COVID-19 individuals had comparable proportions of underlying immunocompromising conditions, but RSV presented more compared with influenza individuals.1

“Overall, most outcomes revealed disease severity among patients with RSV that was not significantly different from patients with unvaccinated COVID-19 and influenza and substantially higher than patients with vaccinated COVID-19 and influenza,” said the study authors.1

The results displayed that the severity of RSV disease among adults is crucial for further vaccine polices and recommendations, according to study authors.1

Limitations in the study included that RSV detection could have been taken from more severe ill individuals that were involved in clinical testing at the participating hospitals. However, the study authors noted that most participants had nasal swab testing at central laboratory, which would lessen the bias of more severely ill individuals. Additionally, treatment with antiviral and immunomodulatory medications was not considered in analyses, according to study authors.1

1. Severity of Respiratory Syncytial Virus vs COVID-19 and Influenza Among Hospitalized US Adults. Jama Network. News release. April 4, 2024. Accessed April 24, 2024.
2. CDC Announces Recommendation for RSV Vaccine in Older Adults. Pharmacy Times. News release. June 30, 2023. Accessed April 24, 2024.
3. FDA Accepts Priority Review Application for RSV Vaccine to Prevent Illness in Adults. Pharmacy Times. News release. February 12, 2024. Accessed April 24, 2024.
4. Study Shows Low Number of Older Americans Are Vaccinated Against RSV. Pharmacy Times. News release. March 4, 2024. Accessed April 24, 2024.
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