Another Vaccine?

I have been waiting patiently for an RSV vaccine for decades. I say patiently because the first attempt at a vaccine against RSV did more harm than good.

By Dr. Robert B. Golenbock

The new RSV vaccine works differently from the old one. First of all, it actually works. Second, it doesn’t cause bad side effects. Of course, we all wish we had a perfect way to protect children from disease without poking them with a needle. And so many times! Why so many times? The reason is that each vaccine takes up a certain amount of volume. They all can’t go in the same syringe. And some don’t play well together. But the most important issue is that infants and children have very immature immune systems. They are at risk precisely because they can’t fight back against illnesses that most adults don’t have problems with. Not only that but when we give them the weakened form of a vaccine, they don’t do a very good job of creating immunity. We have to keep repeating the dose until they have more or less permanent protection.

So, what is RSV anyway? It’s a virus that’s very easy for infants and children (and the elderly) to catch. The very young and the very old can have life-threatening respiratory complications. We could give the virus its full name, which is respiratory syncytial virus, but the name is pretty meaningless. Respiratory means it affects the nose, throat, and lungs. Syncytial means that when the virus is grown in a lab, it affects the cell walls of the cells it grows on. RSV is easier to say and no less meaningful.

So, with an RSV vaccine, your parents and your children can both be protected. That means they won’t be giving each other a serious respiratory illness. Seems like a win-win situation to me. 

While we’re on the subject of vaccines, let’s talk about COVID-19 again. The new strain is causing a lot of new illness. Even if you’ve had several vaccines, you may want to protect yourself with the new monovalent vaccine – particularly if you are medically fragile. If you recently had COVID-19, the recommendation is to hold off on a new COVID-19 vaccine for 3 to 6 months. Do you have to get the new vaccine? If you’ve had at least the first three vaccines and are a young adult and in good health with no other problems (like obesity, heart or lung disease, or diabetes), you may not need another one. Right now, we don’t have enough data to be sure. Again, the more medical issues you have – including being very young or very old – the more likely you will need the new vaccine. 


Robert B. Golenbock, MD, is currently retired. He has cared for children in the Danbury area for 43 years, including at the Center for Pediatric Medicine. The CPM is located at 107 Newtown Rd, #1D, Danbury, CT, 06810. For more information, please call (203) 790-0822 or visit