Most infants hospitalized with respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) do not meet common “high-risk” criteria and are otherwise healthy. The objective of this study was to quantify the risks and relative importance of socioeconomic factors for severe, early-life RSV-related illness. We hypothesized several of these factors, particularly those indicating severe social vulnerability, would have statistically significant associations with increased RSV hospitalization rates and may offer impactful targets for population-based RSV prevention strategies, such as prophylaxis programs.
We used linked health, laboratory, and sociodemographic administrative data for all children born in Ontario (2012–2018) to identify all RSV-related hospitalizations occurring before the third birthday or end of follow-up (March 31, 2019). We estimated rate ratios and population attributable fractions using a fully adjusted model.
A total of 11 782 RSV-related hospitalizations were identified among 789 484 children. Multiple socioeconomic factors were independently associated with increased RSV-related admissions, including young maternal age, maternal criminal involvement, and maternal history of serious mental health and/or addiction concerns. For example, an estimated 4.1% (95% confidence interval: 2.2 to 5.9) of RSV-related admissions could be prevented by eliminating the increased admissions risks among children whose mothers used welfare-based drug insurance. Notably, 41.6% (95% confidence interval: 39.6 to 43.5) of admissions may be prevented by targeting older siblings (eg, through vaccination).
Many social factors were independently associated with early-life RSV-related hospitalization. Existing RSV prophylaxis and emerging vaccination programs should consider the importance of both clinical and social risk factors when determining eligibility and promoting compliance.