All babies should be vaccinated against RSV: heath council

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The Dutch health council is recommending all newborns be vaccinated against the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in their first year.

Vaccination should commence “in the short term,” the health council said. Another way of protecting babies from the virus is to vaccinate expectant mothers but the council is prioritising vaccinating newborns because more children can be protected that way.

The vaccine, which doctors and scientists have been lobbying to add to the national vaccination programme since last year, is seen as a breakthrough against RSV which is killing between 100,000 and 200,000 children worldwide each year.

In the Netherlands about 2,000 children a year are hospitalised because of the virus, and some 200 end up in intensive care.

“One in 56 healthy babies in the Netherlands ends up in hospital with RSV and that is a lot,” paediatrician Louis Bont told broadcaster NOS.

This means children’s IC departments are full to overflowing at certain times of the year leading to transfers of sick children to neighbouring countries or delays in operations. Vaccination will alleviate the problem, Bont said.

Junior health minister Maarten van Ooijen said in response to the recommendation that he would brief MPs as soon as possible on the implications. However, there is no money to make the vaccine available in the short term, he said.

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