North East babies join vaccine trial after surge in respiratory virus cases

A medical trial has begun across the North East aimed at protecting babies from a common but potentially life-threatening virus.

RSV is one of the main reasons that babies are admitted to hospital both in the UK and around the world.

The common winter virus surged as people began mixing following the end of Covid-19 restrictions.

The research, which is known as the HARMONIE study, will examine the effectiveness of a vaccine in providing protection from the virus and reducing the number of hospital stays.

The results will help the NHS and other bodies to decide whether the jab should be offered routinely to babies as part of the wider vaccination programme.

The HARMONIE study: what is involved?

  • The study includes babies from birth to one years old

  • It involves a single dose of an antibody vaccine called nirsevimab

  • Half of participants will be chosen at random to receive the vaccine, with the other half receiving no injection

  • The study will measure any fall in the number of babies admitted to hospital as a result of RSV

The trial is taking place from seven locations across the North East including hospitals and a GP surgery.

Clinical research nurse Vicki Greenaway from County Durham and Darlington NHS Foundation Trust is part of the trial team.

Ms Greenaway said: "Babies born at this time of year, unfortunately they are heading into the winter season where there is an increase in viruses such as RSV.

She added: "For those babies who haven't developed that immune response, (they) are much more vulnerable and would benefit from participating in this study."

Babies chosen for the vaccine receive a single dose. Credit: ITV Tyne Tees

Samantha Honeyman-Turner enrolled her daughter Elsie on the trial because of her concerns over the virus.

She said: "RSV was something that I was worried about from finding out that I was pregnant with Elsie.

She continued: "I want to prevent her from being in hospital if I can and I think being part of this trial will not only prevent her from being in hospital, hopefully, but also other parents and babies in the future."

More about RSV

  • RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, is a common infection, which is generally mild.

  • It tends to spread during colder weather and surged as people began mixing again after the end of Covid-19 restrictions

  • For some babies, RSV can lead to more severe lung problems: notably, bronchiolitis.

Altogether, more than 20,000 babies will be recruited for the HARMONIE study across the UK as well as France and Germany.

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