RSV vaccine during pregnancy

If you’re pregnant, you’ll be offered the RSV vaccine. It will help protect your baby against serious illness from RSV infection.

What the RSV vaccine is for

The respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) vaccine is offered during pregnancy. It helps protect your baby against serious illness caused by RSV infection.

RSV is a common respiratory virus. In most people it causes a mild illness with cold-like symptoms. It’s highly infectious and spreads easily when people with the virus cough or sneeze.

In Scotland, RSV is the most common reason that babies are admitted to hospital with respiratory (breathing) problems.

Those who are at highest risk of severe illness from RSV infection include:

  • premature babies
  • newborn babies (particularly in the first 6 months)
  • children under 2 years with conditions that affect their heart, breathing or immune system

Older children and adults can also get infected with RSV. The disease is more serious for young babies.

RSV infection is more common in winter, but can happen at any time of year.

Bronchiolitis

RSV can lead to bronchiolitis. This condition causes small airways (bronchioles) in the lungs to become infected and inflamed.

Bronchiolitis is a common reason why babies under 1 are admitted to hospital. Over 1,500 were admitted to hospital with bronchiolitis in Scotland last winter.

Who can get the RSV vaccine

You’ll be offered the RSV vaccine if you’re pregnant. It’ll help protect your baby against serious illness from RSV infection.

During pregnancy, you can get the RSV vaccine from 28 weeks. Having the RSV vaccine at this time means that your baby is protected even if they’re born early.

You should not get the RSV vaccine if you’re less than 28 weeks pregnant.

If you did not get the RSV vaccine at 28 weeks, you can still get it later in your pregnancy. It’ll still protect you from infection and reduce the risk of passing RSV infection to your newborn baby.

The best way to protect your baby from serious illness is getting all recommended vaccines at the right time.

Read more about the vaccines offered during pregnancy

The RSV vaccine is also offered to older adults.

Read more about the RSV vaccine for older adults

About the RSV vaccine

The Abrysvo vaccine is offered in Scotland. It’s usually given as an injection in your upper arm.

The Abrysvo vaccine is not a live vaccine. It does not cause RSV infection.

There are very few people who cannot have the RSV vaccine.

You should not get the vaccine if you’ve had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to:

  • any of the vaccine ingredients
  • a previous dose of the same vaccine

You can view the ingredients in the Abrysvo vaccine patient information leaflet.

It’s important to tell the person giving you the vaccine if you:

  • have ever had a severe allergic reaction (anaphylaxis) to anything
  • are receiving medicines, treatment or therapy at a hospital or specialist clinic
You need 1 dose of the RSV vaccine

You only need 1 dose of the RSV vaccine, even if you’re having multiple births (like twins or triplets).

If you get pregnant again in the future, you’ll need to get another dose of the vaccine at that time.

How the RSV vaccine works

The RSV vaccine boosts your immune system, which then produces more antibodies against the virus. These antibodies then pass through the placenta to your baby. This helps protect your baby from the day they are born.

The vaccine helps protect your baby

The vaccine has been shown to reduce the chance of your baby becoming very ill from RSV.

Like all medicines, no vaccine is 100% effective. If you have the vaccine, your baby may still get RSV. However, their RSV infection should be less severe.

If you get the RSV vaccine during pregnancy, the chance of your baby developing a serious infection caused by RSV reduces by over 80%.

The RSV vaccine has a good safety record

In a clinical trial of almost 4,000 women, the vaccine had a good safety record. It’s now been approved by medicines regulators in the UK, Europe and the USA. Many thousands of women have since had the vaccine in national programmes. This includes more than 100,000 women in the USA.

The clinical trial compared pregnant women who received the vaccine with those that had not. Slightly more babies were born early in the group that had the vaccine than in the group who had not had the vaccine. It’s thought that this difference is due to chance, and that there is not a link between vaccination and early birth. However, this is why the vaccine is being given from 28 weeks rather than earlier in your pregnancy.

Overall, it’s still safer for you and your baby to have the vaccine than to risk your baby getting an RSV infection.

All medicines (including vaccines) are tested for safety, quality and effectiveness before they’re allowed to be used. Once they’re in use, the safety of vaccines continues to be carefully monitored.

How to get the RSV vaccine

You should be offered the RSV vaccine around your 28 week antenatal appointment.

Speak to your midwife to find out the local arrangements for vaccination. They’ll be able to advise you on how to get your vaccine.

Read more about other vaccines offered in pregnancy

Side effects of the RSV vaccine

It’s normal to experience side effects after the vaccine. These are usually mild. They may include:

  • redness or tenderness where the vaccine was given
  • irritation or swelling where the vaccine was given
  • muscle pain
  • a headache

You can report suspected side effects of vaccines and medicines through the Yellow Card Scheme.

This can be done:

  • via their website
  • through the Yellow Card Scheme app
  • by phoning 0800 731 6789 (9am to 5pm, Monday to Friday)

Vaccine Safety Net

Public Health Scotland is a proud member of the Vaccine Safety Net and partners with NHS inform to provide reliable information on vaccine safety.

The Vaccine Safety Net is a global network of websites, evaluated by the World Health Organization, that provides reliable information on vaccine safety.

More about the Vaccine Safety Net

Information in other languages and formats

Information leaflets from Public Health Scotland are available in:

  • Audio, Easy Read, and Large Print formats
  • British Sign Language (BSL), English and other languages

You can request another format or language (for example Braille) by emailing phs.otherformats@phs.scot