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Lucy Chard
1 Mar 2023

Pfizer and GSK spearhead development of promising RSV vaccines

Vaccines for RSV from GSK and Pfizer to be analysed by a panel of experts with a view to informing a decision from the US FDA on their approval. 

The next stage in an exciting head-to-head between Pfizer and GSK to develop the first vaccine for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) will take place this week as a panel of experts for the US FDA come to assess the vaccines. 

RSV is common cold-like respiratory virus that is responsible for the deaths of around 14,000 older adults in the US every year. A vaccine that could protect the most vulnerable from this virus would be a big step forward. 

For GSK and Pfizer it would also mean securing their place in the market, with a return of up to $10 billion according to recent estimates. 

The vaccine, for which approval is sought for use in adults aged 60 and over, will come under scrutiny from a panel of experts, who will then provide an independent report for the FDA to consider, eventually deciding on final approval by May of this year. If all goes to plan then the vaccine would be available for patients in time for the seasonal increase in virus prevalence in winter, providing timely protection. 

Research into RSV has been ongoing since the 1960s, so to finally have a breakthrough in the development of a vaccine is a real win for the industry and a credit to the recent advances in the fields of vaccine development and infectious diseases. 

"RSV is the last of the great big respiratory viruses that afflict our population on an annual basis," stated William Schaffner of Vanderbilt University Medical Centre.

Other leaders in the field, Merck, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson have also developed RSV vaccines, which are currently undergoing clinical trials. 

GSK and Pfizer have been leading the charge after initial results from late-stage studies conducted by the two companies demonstrated that their vaccines prevented the occurrence of respiratory disease after infection by RSV. 

The key results were as follows: GSK's vaccine was 82.6% effective in preventing lower respiratory tract disease in people of over 60 years old, and 94.1% effective in preventing severe disease in this population.

The vaccine from Pfizer was 66.7% effective in preventing lower respiratory tract disease that occurs with over two symptoms, and 85.7% effective against illness with over three symptoms.

The results are extremely promising and a favourable outcome from the panel assessment is expected with a view to approving the vaccines in the future. 

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Lucy Chard
Digital Editor - Pharma

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