Thousands more babies will be hospitalised with life-threatening virus this winter amid vaccine delays, top doctor warns | The Sun

THOUSANDS more babies could be hospitalised by RSV this winter because of delays to a new vaccine, the nation's top children's doctor has warned.

The seasonal virus drives around 30,000 hospitalisations every year and leads to dozens of deaths.

Dr Camilla Kingdon, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health (RCPCH), said the Government has delayed a vaccine that protects children from it.

The wait could see thousands of children’s operations cancelled as beds fill up with patients suffering with infections instead, she said.

She told The Independent: "We're frustrated that if we had acted sooner, we might have at least reduced the extent of the impact this winter and we've missed an opportunity there.

"One of the aspects of winter that always fills us with dread, is that we know that we'll end up having to stop elective surgical lists because our hospitals are at full capacity with all the infections that we see in winter.

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"You've got to get ahead of the game. We're really disappointed that the programme hasn't been rolled out in a way that is going to make an impact for this winter, because we've been talking about this endlessly, but there's been a delay in activating the programme."

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) can cause bronchiolitis — a chest infection that affects babies and children aged under two.

It is usually mild and can be treated at home, but can be serious in some cases, requiring hospital attention.

The UK Health Security Agency (UKHSA) said there was a "strong case" for rolling out a jab to children but said there was no time frame for when jabs could start.

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However, an RSV vaccine was approved for use for elderly adults in the UK back in July.

The virus caused 175,000 GP visits, 14,000 people needing hospital treatment and 8,000 deaths for people over the age of 60 in the UK.

The Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency approved pharmaceutical company GSK's jab, known as Arexvy.

A trial showed the jab is highly effective and is generally well tolerated.

The vaccine was found to be 94.1 per cent effective at stopping severe infection.

Side effects from the jab were "transient, with mild to moderate severity", the researchers wrote.

The most common side effects were headache, pain at the injection site, tiredness, or joint or muscle aches or pain.

A Department of Health and Social Care spokesperson said: "The NHS already offers monoclonal antibodies which provide protection against RSV to infants at very high risk.

"We are developing plans for delivering wider infant and adult RSV programmes in collaboration with UKHSA, NHS England and manufacturers. We will update in due course."

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