NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – A vaccine being tested in Nashville is showing promise in fighting a virus often associated with serious illness in young children and older adults.

Respiratory Syncytial Virus, commonly known as RSV, sends about 177,000 older adults to the hospital each year. Now, a Pfizer vaccine being tested in Nashville, is reporting 85% effectiveness in fighting RSV among older adults.

Part of the clinical trials for the potential RSV vaccine took place in Nashville. News 2 spoke with Clinical Research Associates Medical Director Dr. Stephan Sharp about what is different with this breakthrough following previous attempts to develop an RSV vaccine.

“They found out that, of course, we’re targeting the surface proteins similar to the spike protein with COVID, and what they found out was those proteins actually change shape once the virus attaches to cells,” said Dr. Stephan, “So what they had been using, were the shaped cells after attachment, which is not going to prevent anything, the virus would already have invaded by that time.” 

To track the effectiveness of the vaccine, Dr. Stephan says participants were given an electronic diary to document the experience after getting injected.

“After giving them the vaccine, we followed them with what’s called an electronic diary,” said Dr. Stephan, “It looks basically like a cell phone so that they could record any symptoms that they had, you certainly expect anybody getting a vaccine to have certain symptoms, you know, the achy muscles, fever, that kind of thing. Then, we track them for any upper respiratory illness.” 

Health officials say RSV is responsible for at least 14,000 deaths in older people. With the clinical trials showing effectiveness, Pfizer expects to move forward with federal approval of the vaccine later this year. Dr. Stephan expects it will make a difference.

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“I would expect that over time, we’ll need to make some upgrades with this, but since we haven’t had a vaccine against RSV before, I think we’ll see at least a protracted period of time that we’re getting good protection with this new vaccine,” said Dr. Stephan, “Then, you know, we’ll see how long it takes for the virus to respond.” 

The clinical trial was held for older adults. However, the CDC says 58,000 children are hospitalized every year with RSV, with the greatest threat being against very young children.