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Several vaccines for respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) are under development. Designing an effective vaccination programme for RSV requires information about the relative contribution of risk factors for severe RSV symptoms.


To inform preventive strategies in Europe by quantifying the contribution of key child, family and health service risk factors to the burden of RSV hospital admissions in young children.


We constructed a birth cohort study of all singleton children born in Scotland between October 2009 and September 2012 using linkage between birth registration, maternity, vaccination and hospital admission records, with follow-up until the age of 3 years. RSV-confirmed hospital admissions were defined using linkage to national laboratory surveillance data. We estimated hospital admission rates per 1,000 child years and length of stay according to each risk factor. Cox proportional hazard regression models were used to estimate adjusted hazard ratios.


There were 5,185 RSV admissions among the 169,726 children in the cohort: 48.6% of admissions occurred before the age of 6 months, and 29.6% after the age of 1 year. Children born prematurely, small for gestational age, between July and December, with chronic conditions, older siblings, mothers < 30 years old or delayed infant vaccination had a significantly increased risk of admission. Minimising the risk posed by older siblings could reduce RSV admissions by up to 34%.


Future RSV vaccination programmes must protect children throughout early childhood. Vaccination and/or interventions to reduce transmission by older siblings could substantially reduce RSV hospital admissions.


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