Oregon Health Authority urged to protect babies from RSV amid shortage of new immunizations

PORTLAND, Ore. (KTVZ) — Due to a national shortage of the new RSV immunizing vaccine nirsevimab, state health officials are urging Oregonians to take everyday precautions to protect babies from respiratory syncytial virus infection.

One of three new RSV immunization vaccines released at the start of the 2023-2024 respiratory virus season, nirsevimab, commercially available as Beyfortus and produced by Sanofi, is a monoclonal antibody injection available since the fall Supply has been limited ever since.

“Demand for this new immunization against RSV is exceeding expectations,” said Dean Sidelinger, MD, Ed.M., OHA health officer and state epidemiologist. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tells us that the supply shortage is not due to any manufacturing issues, but rather due to an underestimation of demand for nirsevimab following its release.”

“While we know this shortage may be frustrating for parents who are taking steps to protect their babies from respiratory syncytial virus infection, we do have other tools to help protect babies through the fall and winter,” Sidelinger added.

Until the national supply of nirumab is increased, health officials recommend that Oregonians take additional steps to reduce the risk of RSV transmission to their infants, who are most at risk for severe illness, including hospitalization and death. Pregnant women who receive the RSV vaccine at 32 to 36 weeks of pregnancy will pass protection to their babies, so their babies will not need to receive nirsevimab after birth.

“Up to 3 percent of infants in Oregon are hospitalized due to RSV each year,” said Melissa Sutton, MD, OHA’s medical director of respiratory viral pathogens. “As the holidays approach and we gather with family and friends, RSV is expected to increase in our communities. Now is the time to plan how to protect newborns and other young children around them as we gather with friends and family.”

Sutton said that means taking the same precautions used to protect people during the pandemic — staying home when sick and limiting contact with others, wearing a mask, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands, cleaning frequently touched surfaces surface – and encourages pregnant women and certain people 60 and older to get the new adult RSV vaccine.

“We know that wearing a mask around a newborn is protective, especially for family members meeting the baby for the first time,” Sutton said. “Masks are very effective in reducing the risk of transmission and keeping the child safe.”

On October 23, the CDC shared interim guidance with states, which included recommendations that vaccine providers prioritize remaining doses of nirsevimab:

  • Infants under 6 months.
  • American Indian and Alaska Native infants younger than 8 months of age and infants 8 months to 19 months of age who live in remote areas.
  • Infants under 8 months with underlying medical conditions.

Additionally, the CDC recommended that vaccine providers suspend the use of nirsevimab in children 8 months to 19 months of age if they are eligible for palivizumab. Palivizumab is a prophylactic antibody available since 1998 only for infants with complicated medical conditions or premature infants.

The federal agency also said clinicians should offer the new adult RSV vaccine Abrysvo (made by Pfizer Inc.) to pregnant patients and let them know that nirumab may not be used in babies after delivery. It is recommended that the infant receive nirsevimab or the mother be vaccinated, but not both at the same time, as both provide protection to the infant.

Abrysvo can be used by pregnant women between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy between September and January, and by people 60 and older. The second vaccine, Arexvy, is available for seniors 60 and older. OHA officials say Oregon has a steady supply of these new vaccines, but shortages of any new product are not uncommon because demand can be difficult to predict.

“We understand parents are frustrated with the limited supply of nirsevimab, but this shortage will not be permanent and access to RSV immunization will improve,” Sidelinger said. “Until supply improves, keep these basic prevention methods in mind, to keep babies and others safe during the respiratory season and get vaccinated against influenza, COVID-19 and adult RSV.”

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