Doctors fear the next wave of severe cases from respiratory syncytial virus will be in the elderly. Health Canada is considering a vaccine that could help protect older people.
Health Canada issued a statement from GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) on 25 October. RSV Vaccine for adults aged 60 and over.
“Once an application is received, like all vaccine applications, Health Canada will review it using an independent process based on scientific rigor and medical evidence,” it said.
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“Right now, everyone is focused on what’s happening in children’s hospitals,” said Dr. Samir Sinha, director of geriatrics at the Sinai Health and University Health Network in Toronto.
“This is pretty much a snapshot of what we think will happen in our adult hospital as well,” he said.
Infectious disease experts report that the respiratory syncytial virus and influenza season has become earlier and more severe than usual.
But this year, with RSV infections on the rise, older people are also more susceptible to serious illness. It’s also a matter of time before the infection passes from children to grandparents, Sinha said.
“I am concerned that a record number of seniors will contract RSV this year.
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Data on current RSV hospitalizations by age group are limited, but doctors are already beginning to see an “increase” in the number of adults hospitalized for RSV, along with influenza and COVID-19. said Sinha.
Public Health Canada does not collect age-disaggregated data on RSV hospitalizations, it said in a statement to Canadian Press.
“RSV and influenza are two infectious diseases that have always had a disproportionate impact on the very young and the very old,” says an immunologist at McMaster University in Hamilton, who specializes in aging and immunity. Dawn Bowdish, Chair of the Canadian Research Committee, said:
This is because children tend to have the most severe symptoms when they first get RSV and gain some immunity for the rest of their lives. But among older people, they are less able to mount strong immune responses and fight off infections, she said.
On top of that, people over the age of 65 tend to have less elastic lungs, making them “much more vulnerable to lung damage” from respiratory infections such as RSV, she said.
Many young children with RSV tend to recover, but older patients may be hit harder, Sinha said.
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“A major concern for us now is knowing that the actual annual disease burden tends to be greatest for RSV in the elderly. It’s a place to do,” he said.
Sinha and Bowdish say a safe and effective RSV vaccine will be an important tool to protect the elderly.
“Preliminary data from various manufacturers is actually very encouraging,” Sinha said.
The data appear to indicate a “fairly good level of efficacy” and the ability to significantly reduce hospitalizations and other serious consequences of RSV in the elderly.
“We are very hopeful … as early as next year, an RSV vaccine for the elderly could be approved.”
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How to protect the elderly as the holidays approach
Families may decide to protect their seniors by minimizing contact with vulnerable seniors during this surge of respiratory illness, but that’s just not practical when the holidays come around. said Mr Bowdish.
“[If]you have an elderly person living in a long-term care facility or a family member who is a little socially isolated, the cohesiveness is very strong and very important,” she said. I would never recommend complete isolation.”
Unlike COVID-19 and influenza, there is currently no vaccine against RSV. Other precautions have become even more important, she said. Those include wearing a mask and not visiting older loved ones if you are not feeling well.
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