The UK should introduce routine vaccination for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) to protect babies and older adults, the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) has recommended.

It has made the early recommendations after reviewing several vaccines currently in development to allow sufficient lead time for the government to get a policy and programme in place, a statement said.

The committee said there was a significant burden of RSV illness in the UK population and ‘unmet public health need which has a considerable impact on NHS services during the winter months’.

A series of meetings have been held by the committee this year to review the efficacy, safety and duration of protection of the new vaccines that are being developed.

And modelling has also been done by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine on the impact and cost effectiveness of potential immunisation strategies, the committee said.

One potential vaccine developed by Sanofi and AstraZeneca – long acting monoclonal medicine Beyfortus (nirsevimab) for passive immunisation against RSV infection and disease in infants – was licensed by UK regulators in November.

Pfizer has also developed a bivalent RSV maternal vaccine which has undergone clinical trials and has a potential licensing timeline in 2023, the committee said.

There was no preference whether a maternal vaccination or a passive immunisation programme should be chosen to protect babies and both should be considered.

But a year-round vaccination programme would ensure high uptake and would be less complex and resource intensive to deliver than seasonal immunisation, the JCVI advised.

For the over-75s there are currently three vaccine products in development by GSK, Pfizer and Moderna which are due to be licensed this year or early 2024, all of which should be considered, the committee said.

An RSV vaccine programme for adults aged 75 years and above could also be cost effective with the committee favouring a one-off campaign with an initial offer covering several age groups followed by a routine programme for those turning 75 years old.

‘In summary, JCVI advises that a RSV immunisation programme, that is cost effective, should be developed for both infants and older adults,’ it said.

‘A fuller statement providing more detail on the evidence considered and the key discussions and conclusions of the committee will be published alongside the minutes of the June meeting,’ it added.

‘The committee will continue to keep its advice under review as further evidence emerges and will update its advice when appropriate.’

JCVI joint committee chair Professor Sir Andrew Pollard said: ‘The JCVI recognises that there is a significant burden of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) illness in the UK population, which has a considerable impact on the NHS during winter.

‘The Committee has today issued a rapid short statement, advising that a RSV immunisation programme, that is cost effective, should be developed for both infant and older adults. The statement has been published to enable engagement with stakeholders, with a final statement issued to Ministers later this summer to inform a policy decision.’

GSK was the first to claim its RSV vaccine offers ‘exceptional protection’ for older adults following trials last year.

This article first appeared on our sister title, Pulse.