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The United States on Monday became the first country to approve a vaccine for pregnant women that prevents severe disease caused by Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) in their babies.

The Pfizer shot, which was already approved for use in older adults, has now been greenlighted for use as a single injection from 32 through 36 weeks of pregnancy, to protect infants from birth through six months, a statement by the Food and Drug Administration said.

It is the latest in a succession of medicines recently approved against the common microbe, which causes tens of thousands of hospitalizations among infants and the elderly in the United States every year, according to official estimates.

Researchers have targeted an RSV vaccine since the 1960s, but the spate of shots that are emerging now were made possible thanks to a scientific breakthrough a decade ago.

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