Respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV, is “a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.” Some people, like infants and older adults, have a higher risk of an RSV infection becoming serious and requiring hospitalization, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says.
Earlier this year, the CDC began recommending two new RSV vaccines from GSK and Pfizer for adults over the age of 60. And recently, the agency also started recommending the Pfizer vaccine, called Abrysvo, for people who are between 32-36 weeks pregnant.
The agency also recommended an RSV immunization called Beyfortus for infants under 8 months and some older babies who are at higher risk for RSV to protect them from serious illness.
In the CDC’s statements, they noted that those interested in getting vaccinated against RSV should decide after “discussions with their healthcare provider about whether RSV vaccination is right for them.” A VERIFY viewer reached out via text to ask if a prescription is needed to get the RSV shot.
Do you need a prescription in some states to get an RSV vaccine?
Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, Utah, and Washington D.C. require adults to get a doctor’s prescription in order to receive the RSV vaccination. The other 46 states do not. Infants will need a prescription in all states in order to receive the RSV immunization.
WHAT WE FOUND
Adults over 60
The CDC recommends that adults over the age of 60 get the RSV vaccine. In its recommendation, the CDC says the single-dose shot should be offered “based on shared clinical decision-making between the healthcare provider and the patient.”
The phrase “shared clinical decision-making” in the CDC recommendation is what triggers the state laws requiring prescriptions from a healthcare provider in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri, and Utah.
Shared clinical decision-making ensures that those eligible for the RSV vaccine have a conversation with their healthcare provider first, to confirm it makes sense for them to get the shot.
Since the RSV vaccine is recommended for a specific age group and the CDC recommendation includes discussing the vaccine with a health provider first, the administration of it “differs from routine age-based and risk-based vaccine recommendations for which the default decision is to vaccinate all persons in a specified age group or risk group,” says Nancy Nydam, Director of Communications for the Georgia Department of Public Health.
This means that the RSV vaccine is not currently included on the CDC’s official immunization schedule. Laws in Georgia, Iowa, Missouri and Utah require prescription from a healthcare provider before administering any vaccine that is not included on this schedule. DC Health says the vaccine is available through health providers, but they are currently working to allow the vaccine to be administered at pharmacies without a prescription. In Utah, the physician board is planning to vote in September to approve administration of the vaccine without a doctor’s prescription.
Walgreens’ Chief Medical Officer Kevin Ban M.D. also confirmed to VERIFY that Walgreens locations in these states will “only be allowed to administer RSV vaccines to patients who have a prescription from their health provider.”
The vaccine is currently a one-time shot, however, it's possible additional doses may become available in the future. The CDC says there are ongoing studies to find out if older adults could benefit from additional RSV vaccines. As of right now, they say the “RSV vaccines appear to provide some protection for at least two RSV seasons.”
To learn more about getting the RSV vaccine, the CDC says to talk to your health care provider or call your local or state health department.
Babies under 8 months old qualify for an RSV antibody treatment that will give them “antibodies to prevent severe RSV disease,” says the CDC. The newly approved medicine, Beyfortus, is different from the vaccine, which causes the body to produce antibodies. “The monoclonal antibody bypasses that step. Your body gets—in this case—a single kind of antibody directly injected into the bloodstream so that if you're infected with that organism, the antibodies will bind to it and help you clear the infection,” Thomas Murray M.D. said in a Yale Medicine article.
The CDC says this immunization for babies under the age of 8 months and immunocompromised toddlers will be available this fall. They add that infants will “likely only need protection from either the pregnancy RSV vaccine or infant immunization, but not both” and parents should speak with their health care providers for more information.
The CDC has recommended the Abrysvo vaccine for people who are 32-36 weeks pregnant. This one-dose vaccine passes antibodies to the fetus to protect them from birth to six months of age. The CDC says this vaccine is available in some locations in the U.S., with availability becoming more widespread in upcoming weeks. They recommend talking to your healthcare provider, pharmacist or local community health center to determine if getting the vaccine makes sense.