College welcomes the introduction of game changing RSV vaccine 

After a headline campaign from RCPCH, England and Scotland have announced a rollout of the RSV vaccine this autumn.
Repeated icons of megaphone with 'RSV' in a circle

It has been confirmed that England and Scotland will see the roll out of two new RSV vaccination programmes from September and August 2024 (respectively), for older adults and during pregnancy for infant protection.

This follows advice from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in June 2023 to the UK Government to begin vaccinating against RSV. In March 2024 over 2,000 healthcare professionals signed our open letter urging Governments across the UK to implement an immunisation programme in time for next winter. We hope announcements in Wales and Northern Ireland will follow this news.

Evidence shows that RSV is a complex and common viral infection that causes respiratory tract infection, with most infants having been infected by their second birthday. The RSV epidemic peaks in December, when the health service is already at capacity and is responsible for around 33,000 NHS hospitalisations of under-fives annually and death of between 20 and 30 young children every year. RSV poses a significant challenge to child health services each winter, essentially grinding services to a halt.  

In a letter to Trusts, Integrated Care Boards and stakeholders, NHS England confirmed that all women who are at least 28 weeks pregnant (the eligible cohort) on 1 September 2024, should be offered a single dose of the RSV vaccine, through commissioned services. After that, pregnant women will become eligible as they reach 28 weeks gestation and remain eligible up to birth.  

Scottish Chief Medical Officer Professor Sir Gregor Smith has also updated health boards on the new Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine for pregnant women and older adults, with a roll out beginning in August 2024.

For paediatricians and health professionals we would ask you to think RSV, so that once the programme starts being rolled out in September, you can use every opportunity to highlight with patients and enhance uptake. 

RCPCH VP for Policy, Dr Mike McKean welcomes the announcements and said:

We’re delighted that the calls of thousands of paediatricians and health professionals for a much-needed RSV programme have been heard. 

Campaigning for an RSV vaccine has been a key issue for the College for many years now and today’s announcement represents a huge step forward for child health and the paediatric workforce in England and Scotland. This newly announced programme has the potential to transform child health services during the winter months by reducing hospital admissions and could even save young lives. A reduction in RSV cases annually would allow us to focus on the many other children and young people requiring emergency care over winter months. 

Vaccinations play a crucial role in protecting child health, but we are seeing a worrying decline in uptake across many routine childhood immunisations. As paediatricians, we want to continue to champion the use of vaccinations to win the battle against these dangerous and preventable infections. I want to once again thank to the 2000+ paediatricians and healthcare professionals who signed our open letter and helped make this happen.

Notes to Editors:

NHS England has also published two webinars for health professionals on the roll out, which you can find out more about here:

  • 9 July 2024 (14:30 – 15:45): Maternal RSV programme for infant protection: introduction of a new immunisation programme. A webinar for health professionals. Register to join
  • 12 July 2024 (14:30 – 15:45): Adult RSV programme: introduction of a new immunisation programme. A webinar for health professionals. Register to join

Since this news was published the Welsh Government announced that two Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) immunisation programmes will commence in Wales from September 2024 to protect both infants and older adults.