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RCEM calls for RSV vaccine programme to be implemented ‘as soon as possible’ after election

21st June 2024

The Royal College of Emergency Medicine has backed calls for a Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccination programme to be implemented as soon as possible.

RSV is a complex and common viral infection that causes respiratory tract infection usually in children. Most infants usually get it before they turn two.

It is responsible for around 33,000 NHS hospitalisations of under-fives annually and death of between 20 and 30 young children every year.

The annual RSV epidemic usually peaks in December, when the NHS is often at its most busy.

Following a series of successful trials the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI) advised the UK Government to begin vaccinating against RSV in June 2023.

A successful vaccination programme is already operating in Spain, however one has yet to be implemented in the UK.

Evidence shows that rolling out an RSV vaccine to infants could result in:

  • 108,000 fewer GP consultations,
  • 74,000 fewer A&E visits, and
  • 20,000 fewer hospitalisations solely for babies aged 12 months or less.

Dr Adrian Boyle, President of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, said: “Anything that can be done to reduce the risk to children, and that will also ease the spike in seasonal pressure experienced in our A&E departments, every winter must be good.

“RSV is a nasty and potentially very serious illness which each year sees tens of thousands of poorly children needing treatment and care brought into Emergency Departments by worried parents.

“It causes anxiety for them and for staff, as well as the obvious distress to the child, and it adds a significant additional demand to over-stretched and overcrowded A&Es.

“Introducing a national RSV vaccination programme will mean children are protected, parents’ worries are alleviated and a key factor in season-related demand is minimised. It really is a no-brainer for us and should be rolled out as soon as possible.

“RCEM supports the excellent work already done in relation to this by the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health and urges the next Government to put a vaccination programme in place asap so the many positive impacts will be felt this coming winter.”

Research from one company, working with the University of Cambridge, estimated that parents taking time off to care for children under five with RSV costs the UK around £80m in lost earnings every year.

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