08.12.2022 | Insight

HCPs take front row seat to the Pharma race for an RSV vaccine

By Mary Kangley

Header Image for CREATION.co research on RSV

Respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While most people recover within a couple of weeks, RSV can be particularly serious for infants and older adults. The virus is not new but has been surging in the past month. There are many thoughts as to why RSV cases are particularly high this year, but experts agree that the lifting of COVID-19 precautions have left many vulnerable to infection. On Mastodon, Infectious Disease Professor, Carlos E. Figueroa Castro, explained that RSV cases have added to the burden that COVID-19 and flu has placed on hospital systems.

There is currently no approved vaccine to prevent RSV, but top players in COVID-19 vaccination and treatment, Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson and GSK are each investing in RSV vaccines.

HCPs have not missed this news, and alongside their clinical experience of rising cases, have been beginning to take notice of the companies’ pre-launch activities.

Why is an RSV vaccine needed now?

Even though only 7% of the overall RSV online HCP conversation over the past year has mentioned vaccine development, in the week of October 31st, data updates and press releases have piqued the interest of HCPs online. With the news of vaccines on the horizon, HCPs are building hope to protect the vulnerable, reduce health system burden and save lives.

With this year’s powerful RSV surge adding to the burden on healthcare systems, HCPs have been calling for more research into vaccine development to prevent future cases. Paediatric hospitalist, Andrea Hadley, specifically called out the impact of the virus on children, pushing for an approved vaccine to ‘do better’ for them.

Further, expanding hospital capacity is only a short term solution, according to epidemiologist Jennifer Nuzzo, who said vaccines are needed as a matter of urgency.

Who’s in the RSV vaccine race?

HCPs are talking about each of the RSV vaccines in development, but Pfizer, with their latest positive efficacy data has gained the most traction online.

While in the pre-approval and launch phase, these companies have begun above-brand marketing, broadly raising awareness of the virus and implications, as well as publishing their data.

Each of these official account posts have received engagement from HCPs and other members of the public, adding to the online discourse bringing awareness to RSV.

During ID Week, GSK collaborated with a KOL online, to present their latest RSV vaccine trial data. The session was a success, with “standing room only” according to Nicole Theodoropoulos, showing the level of interest in the research.

Pfizer’s press release sharing top-line results of their Phase 3 maternal immunisation trial was disseminated by various HCPs who were excited to see positive data and looking forward to more. Ahead of the publication of peer-reviewed articles, HCPs do not yet have sufficient evidence to be fully convinced by the data, but are positively anticipating the full trial results. 

The significance of even the available data is not amiss to HCPs. Without any currently approved vaccine globally, the possibility of an option for as soon as next year’s RSV season is big news.

What Do HCPs Think?

HCPs are inspired by the early data, aware that a successful candidate would have a huge impact on the global healthcare system. Infectious disease specialist, Dr Neuro, labelled Pfizer’s vaccine data as “huge news for the babies” and physician Alok Patel said an effective RSV vaccine would be “amazing” for those working in overcrowded hospitals.

But online HCPs are eager to see the full data, and some have reminded their peers not to get ahead of themselves with the limited data currently available. In mainstream media, Moderna was called out for promoting their product before releasing full safety data, and infectious disease physician, Isaac Bogoch warned about the need for transparent data and appropriate regulatory processes.

Radiologist David Jacobs added his thoughts to this conversation, mindful of the need to maintain public trust, and imploring the medical community to remember that there are no shortcuts where children are involved.

Further, frequent commentator on the latest clinical trial data, Vinay Prasad, put out a plea to his network to seek all available data on RSV vaccine development, calling the press releases “thread bare”.

Where next?

The online conversation around RSV vaccine development shows that positive early data and regulatory nods encourage HCPs, while they are eager to see the full results. Before  they recommend these vaccines, HCPs need to trust not only their efficacy but just as importantly their safety. While the need for an RSV vaccine is great, the industry needs to be seen to respect the process, and build HCP and public confidence. One way of creating trust with HCPs is to engage in two-way relationships, to understand the need of the HCP and to work alongside Digital Opinion Leaders to communicate and unpack the data for a wider audience as and when it becomes available.

To continue learning about the changing landscape of online HCP conversations and Digital Opinion Leader activation, feel free to reach out to contact@creation.co.

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Meet the Author

Mary Kangley

As a Health Insights Consultant Mary is passionate about telling stories with data from online healthcare conversations. Her work is guided by a background in human and cyber-psychology providing a curiosity to understand what HCPs think.

As a keen music fan, Mary’s greatest pride is her Spotify playlists that are continually growing as she makes new discoveries.

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