The narrow age range chosen for the RSV vaccination programme is disappointing

I am a retired pharmacist and friends are asking me why there is such a narrow age range for older adults chosen for the NHS vaccination programme against respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), which is due to begin in September 2024.

Fortunately, I fall within the chosen age cohort but many of my friends and family do not. Having had a look through a variety of international clinical literature about RSV vaccination, I cannot find any that concludes that those who are aged 80 years or over should not be vaccinated owing to a low level of immunity achieved or adverse clinical reactions. Nor can I find any evidence in the UK literature that the age range in the NHS vaccination programme is likely to be extended in subsequent years.

I can only conclude that the NHS’s decision has been made on a cost basis. Surely those who are older than me are likely to have a range of comorbidities, making them less likely to be able to cope with an RSV infection.

Are any of my Royal Pharmaceutical Society colleagues able to enlighten me further?

Jennifer Boncey FRPharmS

  • This letter was amended on 5 July 2024 to clarify the wording
Last updated
The Pharmaceutical Journal, PJ, July 2024, Vol 313, No 7987;313(7987)::DOI:10.1211/PJ.2024.1.322473


  • Jennifer Boncey

    Thank-you you for printing my letter, albeit with some editing. I did not use the term patients for those over 80, I said people who are older than me. This seems to be a strange change to my wording. I was referring to all those over eighty years of age not just those who are 'patients'.

    • Beth Taylor

      I'd like to support the author's comment above. The subeditors change in wording does alter the meaning - older people are not all patients - and the phrases are not interchangeable.

    • Sheralyn Bone

      Dear Jennifer, thank you for highlighting this. I have removed the mention of 'patients' and replaced it with your original wording. Apologies for this editing error.

      Sheralyn (Chief Subeditor at The Pharmaceutical Journal)

  • Anthony Cartwright

    RSV in older adults is estimated to cause 14,000 hospitalisations in the UK per year. The need to protect this population is clear. On 26 June the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention updated its recommendations for RSV vaccines in older adults. For the 2024 season they now recommend that everyone aged 75 or over should receive the vaccine, and people aged 60-74 at increased risk of serious RSV such as lung or heart disease.
    This seems much more clinically logical than the NHS position, which effectively writes off those of us who are over 80. The NHS should urgently review its proposed programme.


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