Palivizumab prophylaxis and hospitalization for respiratory syncytial virus disease in the Stockholm infant population, 1999 through 2002

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Background.There are few independent, population-based reports that estimate the risk of hospitalization of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV)-infected infants before and during the palivizumab era. We present figures from the greater Stockholm area during the three seasons after the introduction of palivizumab and relate them to data based on 1400 hospitalizations for RSV disease in the same population area during 1987 through 1998.Methods.The number of births, neonatal complications and palivizumab prescriptions was obtained. We retrieved information about all infant hospitalizations for confirmed RSV infections with risk factors and complications. Chronic lung disease (CLD) in preterm infants was defined as oxygen dependency beyond 36 weeks of postconceptional age.Results.Eight hundred eighteen infants (1.3% of the population) were hospitalized for confirmed RSV infection. The hospitalization rates were 3.7% (24 of 642) among preterm infants with gestational age <33 weeks without CLD and 7.2% (14 of 195) in those with CLD. Palivizumab had been given to 235 infants, usually those with CLD and in need of continuous oxygen or steroid treatment or the <6 month-old infants with extremely preterm birth (gestational age <26 weeks). The risk of hospitalization for RSV disease was low, but this was the case also before the introduction of palivizumab.Conclusions.In countries with a low baseline risk of hospitalization for RSV infection, the benefit of palivizumab might not justify the cost of its widespread use. We advocate defining more rigorous prescription criteria.

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