CHICAGO (NewsNation Now) — Moderna announced Tuesday it’s begun a late-stage study of its vaccine for the respiratory syncytial virus, also known as RSV. Like the COVID-19 vaccine, it uses Messenger RNA (mRNA) technology.
RSV is a respiratory virus that generally causes cold-like symptoms. In the U.S., the virus causes 177,000 hospitalizations and 14,000 deaths in adults 65 and older every year, Moderna said.
Most people who contract the virus recover in one to two weeks; RSV can be severe for young children and older adults. In addition, RSV is a leading cause of severe respiratory illness for these higher-risk groups, including pneumonia and respiratory distress.
While many parents are concerned about the recent surge in RSV cases, doctors say the virus is known for being a seasonal virus that appears during late fall through early spring.
“I think with kids, most kids have RSV, whether we know it or not by the age of 2. It’s usually just a mild cold virus that we don’t even test for that kids get and kind of move on,” Dr. Payal D. Adhikari said on “Morning In America.”
She continued, “With the kids who left two years having been secluded so much, I think a lot of these kids as they get back into day care, back into birthday parties and social situations, are now getting this virus that they perhaps would have gotten already in the last two years.”
Adhikari said there’s currently an RSV vaccine on the market. Still, it’s only approved for very high-risk children, including very premature kids, kids with congenital heart diseases, chronic pulmonary diseases, etc.
“This new mRNA vaccine for RSV will depend on who it’s actually marketed towards; if it’s going to be marketed to the general public or just for high-risk kiddos,” Adhikari said.
Scientists have researched mRNA vaccines for decades, so it’s not a new technology; it’s new to the market.
“Normal vaccines, what they do is they inject a little bit of the actual viral protein into your system. So whether it’s dead or alive, they inject the viral protein itself, and then our bodies say, Oh, that’s not something we want in here, and they create antibodies to it,” Adhikari explained.
She continued, explaining how mRNA vaccines impact bodies, “mRNA vaccines instead actually give us the blueprint to create the protein ourselves. So it does not give us any virus or any viral protein. It just gives us instructions on how our bodies can make that protein. And then our bodies, make it, display it to ourselves. And then our cells say, hey, that doesn’t look like something you like, let’s create antibodies to it.”
Currently, the only approved product using mRNA is COVID-19 vaccines, but Moderna and Pfizer are tapping into the potential of the technology to target other diseases.
Moderna decided to begin the late-stage portion of the study after an independent review of preliminary mid-stage data that suggested the vaccine has an acceptable safety profile in older adults.