Vaccine Efficacy in Adults in a Respiratory Syncytial Virus Challenge Study

N Engl J Med. 2022 Jun 23;386(25):2377-2386. doi: 10.1056/NEJMoa2116154.


Background: Although human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) is an important cause of illness and death in older adults, no RSV vaccine has been licensed.

Methods: In a phase 2a study, we randomly assigned healthy adults (18 to 50 years of age), in a 1:1 ratio, to receive a single intramuscular injection of either bivalent prefusion F (RSVpreF) vaccine or placebo. Approximately 28 days after injection, participants were inoculated intranasally with the RSV A Memphis 37b challenge virus and observed for 12 days. The per-protocol prespecified primary end points were the following: reverse-transcriptase-quantitative polymerase-chain-reaction (RT-qPCR)-confirmed detectable RSV infection on at least 2 consecutive days with at least one clinical symptom of any grade from two categories or at least one grade 2 symptom from any category, the total symptom score from day 1 to discharge, and the area under the curve (AUC) for the RSV viral load in nasal-wash samples measured by means of RT-qPCR from day 2 after challenge to discharge. In addition, we assessed immunogenicity and safety.

Results: After participants were inoculated with the challenge virus, vaccine efficacy of 86.7% (95% CI, 53.8 to 96.5) was observed for symptomatic RSV infection confirmed by any detectable viral RNA on at least 2 consecutive days. The median AUC for the RSV viral load (hours × log10 copies per milliliter) as measured by RT-qPCR assay was 0.0 (interquartile range, 0.0 to 19.0) in the vaccine group and 96.7 (interquartile range, 0.0 to 675.3) in the placebo group. The geometric mean factor increase from baseline in RSV A-neutralizing titers 28 days after injection was 20.5 (95% CI, 16.6 to 25.3) in the vaccine group and 1.1 (95% CI, 0.9 to 1.3) in the placebo group. More local injection-site pain was noted in the vaccine group than in the placebo group. No serious adverse events were observed in either group.

Conclusions: RSVpreF vaccine was effective against symptomatic RSV infection and viral shedding. No evident safety concerns were identified. These findings provide support for further evaluation of RSVpreF vaccine in a phase 3 efficacy study. (Funded by Pfizer; EudraCT number, 2020-003887-21; number, NCT04785612.).

Publication types

  • Randomized Controlled Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Aged
  • Antibodies, Neutralizing / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Humans
  • Injections, Intramuscular
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections* / prevention & control
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines* / adverse effects
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus, Human*
  • Vaccine Efficacy


  • Antibodies, Neutralizing
  • Antibodies, Viral
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Vaccines

Associated data

  • EudraCT/2020-003887-21