The Consumer’s Guide to RSV Vaccines for Older Adults

What you need to know about the first-of-their-kind vaccines recently approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to protect adults 60 and over from respiratory syncytial virus.

I n May 2023, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), approved two vaccines for preventing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in older adults: Arexvy (made by GSK) and Abrysvo (made by Pfizer).

In June 2023, following robust deliberation, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)’s Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) voted to recommend that adults ages 60 years and older may receive a single dose of either the GSK or Pfizer RSV vaccine, using shared clinical decision-making. This means these individuals should talk to their healthcare provider about whether RSV vaccination is right for them.

The CDC director then endorsed ACIP’s recommendations, meaning it is now the official CDC public health guidance for safe use of the vaccine in the U.S.

“These vaccines — which are the first ones licensed in the U.S. to protect against RSV — are expected to be available ahead of this fall, providing an opportunity to help protect older adults against severe RSV illness at a time when multiple respiratory infections are likely to circulate,” says Michael Melgar, MD, medical officer with the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, based in Atlanta.

Here’s what you should know about these newly approved RSV vaccines.

RSV is a common respiratory infection that causes mild, cold-like symptoms that typically get better within a week or two. But, for some people, especially older adults, infants, and those with compromised immune systems, RSV can be serious — even deadly. “Each year, between 60,000 and 160,000 older adults in the United States are hospitalized [for RSV infection], and between 6,000 and 10,000 of them die from it,” says Dr. Melgar.

RSV vaccines are a monumental public health concern for older adults. The infection “is secondary to flu in terms of the number of older adults who are infected and sick with it [or] require hospitalization, and the number of deaths that occur,” says Edward Walsh, MD, a professor of infectious diseases in the department of medicine at the University of Rochester Medical Center in New York. “One of the key features of RSV is that the older you get, the more severe it can be.”

In 2022, the United States saw a high circulation of RSV, along with other respiratory viruses, as well as an increase in RSV detections, emergency department visits, and hospitalizations, which put significant stress on healthcare systems, says Melgar. “That recent activity helps underscore the importance and potential benefits of [vaccines] aimed at the prevention of severe RSV illness, particularly among at-risk populations,” he notes.

7 Essential Facts About the RSV Vaccine

RSV Vaccine FAQs

Who Should and Shouldn’t Get an RSV Vaccine?

Both RSV vaccines are for adults 60 and over, especially those who have a compromised immune system (from undergoing cancer treatment, for example), heart disease, or lung disease.

Other options are also available specifically to protect infants and pregnant people.

Researchers also plan to study vaccinations for other vulnerable populations, including people under 60 who are immunocompromised and people who have HIV.

Which Vaccine Is Best for Me?

The ACIP and CDC did not make preferential recommendations between the two vaccines. “Both vaccines provide protection and are safe and effective,” says Melgar.

If you’re over 60, talk to your primary care doctor about whether an RSV vaccine makes sense for you. “Working with your primary care doc is always advisable in figuring out the best way to get caught up on all vaccines for which you are eligible,” says Jack O’Horo, MD, MPH, an infectious diseases specialist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

It’s also good to talk to your doctor about other vaccines you may want to get as an older adult, such as the flu, pneumonia, and shingles vaccines. “Talk to your healthcare provider about which vaccines are appropriate for you,” advises Melgar, “as it can differ based on age, health conditions, and vaccines received as a child, as well as other factors, including job, lifestyle, and travel.”

RSV Vaccine Rollout: What to Expect This Fall


The RSV vaccine is now available through your healthcare provider or local pharmacy. The CDC is also working alongside FDA and other federal agency partners to prepare for a fall vaccination campaign featuring RSV vaccines, as well as COVID-19 vaccines and annual flu vaccines.

Additionally, the CDC is working to share clear recommendations with the public to prevent serious illness from a variety of respiratory viruses, including COVID-19, RSV, and flu. These common preventive measures include:

  • Getting vaccinated against some of these viruses (COVID-19, flu, and RSV for adults 60 and older who decide with their provider that it’s right for them).
  • Practicing social distancing, covering coughs and sneezes, and washing hands frequently to help protect you and reduce the spread of respiratory viruses.
  • Following your doctor’s treatment advice if you do develop a respiratory illness to help prevent others from getting sick.