Starting in December of 1965, thirty-one infants, most of them African American, from Washington, DC, received an investigational respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine as part of a series of clinical trials. Not only did the vaccine not protect the children, who were aged 2 to 7 months when the study began, but it made them more vulnerable to serious illness when they were naturally exposed to the virus. Eighteen of the 23 vaccinated children who became infected, but only 1 of 21 infected children in a control group, subsequently were hospitalized with RSV infection and 2 toddlers in the RSV vaccine group—a 14-month-old and a 16-month-old—died.
This was an interesting article on the history of attempts to develop protective therapeutic antibodies to alleviate RSV illnesses in children.
However, while it is true that the seriousness of RSV infections was not recognized until relatively recently, it is not true for children. We recognized both the severity and frequency of RSV infections in young children in the late 70's and one of our team members (Robert C. Welliver, MD) continues study of this virus in children today
So a major part of the RSV medical research history was overlooked in this report.
Abbasi J. RSV Vaccines, Finally Within Reach, Could Prevent Tens of Thousands of Yearly Deaths. JAMA. 2022;327(3):204–206. doi:10.1001/jama.2021.23772
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