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FDA approves first RSV vaccine for pregnant women

First RSV vaccine for babies and pregnant women has been FDA approved
First RSV vaccine for babies and pregnant women has been FDA approved 02:17

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) --  A new weapon to fight a contagious respiratory virus that strikes young children.

The first vaccine to protect infants from RSV was just approved by the FDA.

It would be given during a woman's pregnancy, so the antibodies could be passed onto newborns.

RSV, or Respiratory Syncytial Virus, has become a growing threat to babies and toddlers mainly in the winter, filling children's hospitals with sick babies struggling to breathe.

"It can actually infect the lining of our smallest airways, so, first the virus can do direct damage to the airways," Dr. Laurie Handy from CHOP said. 

Now there's a new way to protect babies. The FDA has approved Pfizer's Abrysvo vaccine for pregnant women. 

"The idea here is you're vaccinating a woman late in pregnancy, in her third trimester. She makes her own natural antibodies and she passes the antibodies on to the baby through the placenta, through the breast milk," Dr. Celine Gounder, CBS News Medical Contributor said. 

The vaccine for pregnant women would be given between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy and would protect newborns for six months.

A clinical trial at Cincinnati Children's Hospital involved more than 7,000 pregnant people, including Melissa Squires, a doctor at the hospital and a mother of two.

"I'm always looking for ways to really optimize the health of my children," Squires said.

The CDC says more than 2 million children under age five get RSV each year, up to 80,000 are hospitalized, and 300 die.

In addition to protecting babies, this new RSV vaccine may provide moms like Squires some peace of mind.

"It means that we have yet another tool to help keep babies safe and healthy," Squires said. "Especially during that first year of life where they are so fragile and so vulnerable to so many viruses."

Doctors say risks to the baby are low because the vaccine is given in the third trimester. It's expected to be available soon.

Other RSV vaccines have been approved for older adults and infants. There is also an approved antibody shot that can be given to infants after birth.

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