In the UK, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) is a seasonal winter virus causing lower respiratory tract infections (LRTIs) usually from October to March.
Most RSV infections occur in a relatively short epidemic of about 6 weeks. LRTI, resulting from RSV, usually causes mild, self-limiting illness, but may cause severe illness in vulnerable infants at high risk of LRTI resulting in hospitalisation.
Palivizumab (administered as an intramuscular injection) is used to provide protection against RSV in at-risk patients and has been shown to decrease hospitalisation in this group. It is currently part of a UK-wide immunisation schedule as per guidance issued by Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) in 2010, which recommends its use in premature infants with conditions affecting the lungs and/or heart, and children with impaired immune systems.
Extension of the eligibility criteria for passive immunisation with palivizumab
The UK rapid policy statement, which was published on 29 June 2021, extends the eligibility criteria for passive immunisation with palivizumab, within the context of the current COVID-19 pandemic, to a further group of at-risk infants.
The timing of palivizumab dosing has also been updated to reflect the unusual seasonal presentation of the virus, and now allows for up to 7 doses to be administered.
It is recommended that immunisation with palivizumab is initiated as soon as possible in line with the updated rapid policy statement.