Also called Synagis

Key points about palivizumab

  • Palivizumab is used to help prevent serious illness and hospitalisation in high-risk infants, caused by a virus called respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
  • Palivizumab is also called Synagis.
  • Find out how to take it safely and possible side effects.
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Palivizumab is a medicine used to prevent serious lung problems and respiratory illnesses caused by respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants at high risk of infection.  

RSV is a very common virus in the winter and spring months in Aotearoa New Zealand. In young infants it causes a chest infection called bronchiolitis. This is often a mild infection, but it can become serious in high risk infants under 2 years old. Read more about RSV.

The antibodies in palivizumab helps protect your baby from serious infection and hospitalisation. Palivizumab is not used to treat RSV once someone already has the infection. 

Palivizumab is not a vaccine as it does not stimulate your baby's body to produce its own antibodies when they come into contact with that virus in the future.

Palivizumab is given as an injection into the muscle in your baby's thigh by a healthcare professional. The dose given will depend on your child’s weight.

Palivizumab injections are repeated once a month during the expected RSV season. This is because the level of antibodies from each palivizumab injection gradually decreases, and each injection can only help protect your child for about 1 month before another injection is needed. So to ensure the level of protection for your baby remains high, the injections are repeated once a month. 

To best protect your child, it is necessary to follow the instructions from your doctor about return visits for additional doses.

Like all medicines, palivizumab can cause side effects, although not everyone gets them. Often side effects improve as your body gets used to the new medicine.

Side effect What should I do?
  • Pain, swelling or redness around the injection site 
  • This is quite common after having the injection.
  • It usually settles within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Do not rub the injection site.
  • Tell your doctor if it is bothering your child.
  • Fever
  • Runny poo (diarrhoea)
  • Restlessness
  • This is quite common after having the injection.
  • It usually settles within 24 to 48 hours.
  • Tell your doctor if it is bothering your child.
  • Signs of an allergic reaction such as skin rash, itching, swelling of your lips, face, and mouth or difficulty breathing
  • This is rare but serious.
  • Tell your doctor immediately or ring Healthline 0800 611 116.
For more information on side effects, see the Medsafe consumer information leaflet Synagis(external link).

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Credits: Healthify He Puna Waiora Pharmacists. Healthify is brought to you by Health Navigator Charitable Trust.

Reviewed by: Maya Patel, MPharm PGDipClinPharm, Auckland

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