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RSV vaccine trials start at the South Bend Clinic

Rebecca Green/WBOI

COVID-19 is the respiratory virus that has dominated the news cycle for the last couple of years. But the respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is the number-one cause of hospitalization for children under age five.

RSV also presents a serious risk for senior citizens and the immunocompromised. It typically spreads from November to April, but Dr. Jim Harris – director of research at the South Bend Clinic – said this year is different. 


“We’ve seen it all through the summer,” he said. “It is months and months ahead of the schedule that it usually keeps each year.”


Combined with the COVID-19 delta surge, RSV has strained hospital capacity and staff this year – especially at pediatric hospitals. 


But, a new vaccine for the virus is currently in the trial stage across the country, including at the South Bend Clinic. Harris said an RSV vaccine has been in development for several decades, but the current iteration uses the same technology as Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.


“It’s been shown to be very effective in a smaller population of patients,” he said. “Now we’re part of a much bigger trial that will ultimately enroll about 30,000 patients.”


Harris said the vaccine could be life-saving for the 10-15,000 senior citizens that die from RSV each year.


“If we can keep even a few people out of the hospital by having a vaccine for this virus, it would be an effective tool and something very helpful down the road,” he said.


Though the virus also affects children, the clinic is only looking for trial participants age 60 and older. For more information about the trial, Harris said to call the South Bend Clinic at (574) 234-8161 and ask for the research department.


The South Bend Clinic is a financial supporter of WVPE.


Contact Gemma atgdicarlo@wvpe.orgor follow her on Twitter at@gemma_dicarlo.


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Gemma DiCarlo came to Indiana by way of Athens, Georgia. She graduated from the University of Georgia in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and certificates in New Media and Sustainability. She has radio experience from her time as associate producer of Athens News Matters, the flagship public affairs program at WUGA-FM.