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Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV)

Last updated February, 2024

What is respiratory syncytial virus or RSV? RSV is a very common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms.  Most people recover in a week or two, but RSV can be serious especially for infants and older adults.  RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis (inflammation of the small airways in the lung) and pneumonia in children younger than 1 year of age in the U.S.

RSV Vaccine Distribution at Sansum Clinic for Patients Age 60 and Older

We are only administering the Pfizer formulation of the RSV vaccine (Abrysvo) for patients age 60 and older at our Sansum Clinic Prescription Pharmacy Locations between 9:00 am-4:00 pm daily, Monday through Friday.

Appointments to receive an RSV vaccine are required. Patients can call a Sansum Clinic pharmacy to schedule their vaccine appointment.

  • Prescription Pharmacy at Pesetas 215 Pesetas Lane Santa Barbara  (805) 964-4831 
  • Prescription Pharmacy at Pueblo 317 W. Pueblo Street Santa Barbara  (805) 682-6507

If a patient or a patient’s healthcare provider prefers Glaxo Smith Kline's RSV vaccine (Arexvy),  it can be obtained at many community pharmacy locations.  

The RSV vaccine is completely covered by Medicare Part D for those with a Medicare Part D plan - there is no co-pay. For patients with commercial health insurance (typically those ages 60-64), our pharmacy will determine coverage and bill your health insurance plan.

***The CDC’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) has indicated that the decision to receive an RSV vaccine for people ages 60 or older should be a shared decision between the patient and his or her healthcare provider based upon the patient’s age and underlying conditions. 

RSV Vaccines For Infants and Young Children

There has been exciting news on the RSV front for protecting newborns and young children from severe RSV illness.  

The FDA and CDC-approved nirsevimab (Beyfortus) can help protect babies and high-risk young children (up to age 24 months) from severe disease due to an RSV infection. Beyfortus is a long acting, monoclonal antibody, not a vaccine. Beyfortus provides an extra layer of defense that helps fight RSV infections and protects young children from getting severely ill. However, please note that this is not a  treatment for a child who already has RSV infection.

The FDA and CDC have also recommended the first RSV vaccine, Abrysvo, for pregnant women to protect their newborn from severe RSV illness. Most infants will typically only need protection from either the maternal RSV vaccine (Abrysvo)  or Nirsevimab (Beyfortus), but not both. If a baby is born less than two weeks after maternal RSV  immunization with Abryvso, the mother may not have had enough time to pass her antibodies to her newborn baby in utero, and as a result, her doctor may recommend that the baby also receive a dose of Nirsevimab (Beyfortus) after birth, to ensure that the baby is protected.

Please discuss these options with your OB/GYN provider and/or your  child’s healthcare provider to determine the need, and check with your health insurance provider to determine coverage. Cottage Hospital is also administering Beyfortus to newborns. 

** Beyfortus is currently in short supply nationally, and treatment recommendations may evolve as a result.  Parents should speak with their pediatrician for the most up-to-date guidance.

More about RSV Vaccines For Pregnant People

The CDC recommends an RSV vaccine for pregnant women to protect their infants from severe RSV disease. The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) supports the CDC’s recommendation approving the use of a maternal RSV vaccine during pregnancy.  

Pregnant people should get a single dose of Pfizer’s FDA-approved RSV vaccine, Abrysvo during weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy during September through January to prevent lower respiratory tract disease (LRTD) and severe LRTD caused by RSV in infants from birth through six months of age.  

Please note: The Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) vaccine (Pfizer's Abrysvo) for pregnant women during 32-36 weeks gestation is considered a seasonal vaccine and should only be administered from September through January, the time frame when RSV is typically circulating in most of the continental United States.  Sansum Clinic Pharmacy will no longer be providing the RSV vaccine for pregnant women.  Instead, for infants age less than 8 months born to unvaccinated mothers, please speak with your provider about the administration of the monoclonal antibody, Nirsevimab (also known as Beyfortus), for your newborn through the end of March to prevent RSV associated lower respiratory tract disease after birth.  


Who is at the highest risk of getting RSV?

People at the highest risk for severe RSV include patients age 60 years and older with chronic medical conditions such as lung diseases, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and asthma, cardiovascular diseases such as congestive heart failure and coronary artery disease, moderate or severe immune compromise (either attributable to a medical condition or receipt of immunosuppressive medications or treatment), diabetes mellitus, neurological or neuromuscular conditions, kidney disorders, liver disorders, and hematologic disorders. Also at higher risk are persons who are frail, of advanced age, and persons with other underlying conditions or factors that your healthcare provider determines might increase your risk for severe RSV-associated respiratory disease. Adults age 60 years and older who are residents of nursing homes and other long-term care facilities are also at risk for severe RSV disease.

Can you receive the RSV vaccine on the same day you receive other vaccines?

Administration of RSV vaccine on the same day with other adult vaccines is acceptable.  However, according to results of co-administration studies of RSV vaccines with influenza vaccines, common side effects, such as fever and soreness at the injection site, may be increased when these two vaccines are administered on the same day. Some studies also suggest it’s possible that the RSV and flu vaccines may not produce as strong of an immune response if they’re given on the same day, but the clinical significance of this is unknown. Additional research is ongoing to further inform guidance on same-day administration of the RSV vaccine and other adult vaccines.  As a result, we recommend waiting two weeks between RSV vaccination and other adult vaccines, when feasible.

How does RSV spread?  

RSV can spread when:

  • An infected person coughs or sneezes
  • You get virus droplets from a cough or sneeze in your eyes, nose, or mouth
  • You touch a surface that has the virus on it, like a doorknob, and then touch your face before washing your hands
  • You have direct contact with the virus, like kissing the face of a child with RSV

People infected with RSV are usually contagious for 3 to 8 days, however some infants and people with weakened immune systems can continue to spread the virus even after they stop showing symptoms, for as long as 4 weeks. Children are often exposed to and infected with RSV outside the home, such as in schools or child-care centers. They can then transmit the virus to other members of the family.

RSV can survive for many hours on hard surfaces such as tables and crib rails. It typically lives on soft surfaces such as tissues and hands for shorter amounts of time.

Who typically gets RSV?  People of any age can get RSV, but infections in adulthood are usually less severe. People at highest risk for severe disease include:

  • Premature infants
  • Young children with congenital heart or chronic lung disease
  • Young children with compromised immune systems due to a medical condition or medical treatment
  • Adults with compromised immune systems
  • Older adults, especially those with underlying heart or lung disease

Some people with RSV infection, especially older adults and infants younger than 6 months of age, may need to be hospitalized if they are having trouble breathing or are dehydrated. 

Is there a test to determine if you have RSV? A rapid test for RSV is available in our Urgent Care, however it is mostly used for vulnerable and/or immunocompromised patients. If you feel you need to be tested, you should contact your primary care provider.

If you have had RSV before, can you get it again? Yes. 

What are the common symptoms of RSV?  Individuals infected with RSV usually show symptoms within 4-6 days after getting infected.  For most adults and older children, RSV causes typical common cold symptoms such as runny nose, nasal congestion, coughing, sneezing, fever, decreased appetite and/or wheezing. In very young infants, the only symptom may be irritability, decreased activity and breathing difficulties. For infants, preemies and those with high-risk conditions like asthma, RSV can create enough mucus and inflammation in the lungs to result in hospitalization to provide things like extra monitoring, breathing treatments, deep suctioning, supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids and sometimes respiratory support in severe cases. For any age patient struggling to breathe, seek care immediately. 

How do you treat RSV once infected?  There is no specific treatment for RSV once you are infected. Most RSV infections go away on their own in a week or two. 

For parents, there are steps that can be taken to relieve your child’s symptoms:

  • Manage fever and pain with over-the-counter fever reducers and pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen. (Never give aspirin to children.)
  • Drink enough fluids. It is important for people with RSV infection to drink enough fluids to prevent dehydration (loss of body fluids).
  • Talk to your pediatrician or healthcare provider before giving your child non-prescription cold medicines. Some medicines contain ingredients that are not good for children.
  • Nasal saline drops, humidifier and steamy bathroom treatments can be helpful to keep mucus thin and make it easier to breathe through the nose. For patients with asthma, nebulizers/inhalers may be helpful.
  • For infants, preemies and those with high-risk conditions, RSV can create enough mucus and inflammation in the lungs to result in a need for hospitalization to provide things like breathing treatments, deep suctioning, supplemental oxygen, intravenous fluids and sometimes respiratory support in severe cases.

How can you prevent getting RSV?  There are steps you can take to help prevent the spread of RSV. 

  • Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or your upper shirt sleeve, not your hands.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds.
  • Avoid close contact, such as kissing, shaking hands, and sharing cups and eating utensils, with others.
  • Clean frequently-touched surfaces such as doorknobs and mobile devices.
  • People with cold-like symptoms should not interact with children at high risk for severe RSV disease, including premature infants, children younger than 2 years of age with chronic lung or heart conditions, and children with weakened immune systems.
  • If there is an outbreak of RSV at your school or daycare, it may be a good idea to keep your child home if possible, until the illnesses settle down. This is especially true if you have a very young child, a preemie, a child with an underlying health condition or if you have a high-risk person living in your home.
  • High-quality masks are another tool that can help reduce the spread of germs if you are experiencing symptoms or just want to reduce the chances of being exposed if you are in an indoor or classroom setting. 
  • Handwashing is helpful.  For younger children, a good practice is to wash hands, face and maybe even change into a clean shirt before interacting with other siblings when coming home after school.


Additional Links on RSV:



American Academy of Pediatrics on RSV

Pediatric Symptom Checker an online tool available in English and Spanish to assist parents, caregivers and family members with healthcare decisions when their infant or child is not feeling well, or has a minor injury.