At Kids First Pediatrics of Raleigh and Clayton, we know that parents of infants are worried about RSV, especially this time of year. Luckily, in a recent article, healthychildren.org Pediatrician Vanessa L. Hill, MD, FAAP answers the question: Is the RSV immunization available for infants?
Parents, you may be hearing that hospitals and pediatrics offices in your area have a shortage or limited supply of the new respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) immunization for infants. Here's the latest information you need to know about this new immunization.
The RSV immunization, called nirsevimab, was recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the American Academy of Pediatrics in the fall of 2023. The immunization helps prevent serious RSV infection in babies who are at the most risk. This was exciting news since we know that RSV is the most common cause of hospitalization in infants under age 1.
Pediatricians were shocked to learn that there would be a shortage of the new RSV immunization, meaning that most infants won't be able to access it this year. We find this incredibly frustrating, especially because this immunization shows a great deal of promise.
Pediatricians expected the new RSV immunization would be available for everyone who needs it this season, but many have found they cannot order it due to the limited supply. While some communities have it, many do not. Next RSV season, we hope that nirsevimab will be available for everyone who is eligible. This first year, most of the U.S. will be affected by the limited supply.
If nirsevimab is available in your community this season, it will be offered to infants and toddlers who are at the most risk of serious illness from RSV. This season only, those eligible include babies who:
Weigh less than 11 pounds.
Are younger than 6 months old and weigh more than 11 pounds.
Identify as American Indian and Alaska Native (AI/AN) and are younger than age 8 months.
Are age 6 through 7 months and have an existing medical condition that places them at highest risk of serious illness from RSV.
Are age 8 through 19 months and identify as AI/AN and live in a remote region.
Note: If your baby can get the RSV immunization this season and you have private health insurance, confirm that your insurer will cover the cost of nirsevimab. Not all insurance companies have added this product to their coverage yet.
Read on to learn more about RSV immunization and other ways to keep babies healthy this RSV season.
Why is there a shortage of RSV shots this year?
When a new vaccine or immunization is approved, it can take time to make it readily available across all communities. There are many steps before the new immunization can be delivered far and wide. The supply may be limited at first. In some places, it might not be available at all.
What can I do to protect my baby if they can't get an RSV shot?
If you received the new RSV vaccine during your pregnancy, your baby most likely is protected from RSV this season.
If you are pregnant and your baby will be born during RSV season, you can get an RSV vaccine at any time between 32 and 36 weeks of pregnancy. When you get it during pregnancy, you pass the antibodies to your baby, so they are protected after they are born. It takes about 14 days for the immune protection from the vaccine to pass through the placenta to your baby.
If your baby or toddler is at higher risk from RSV, they may be eligible for a different RSV immunization called palivizumab.
Even if your baby is unable to receive an RSV shot this season, there are other steps to help them stay healthy. The fall and wintertime is when respiratory illness is more common. Additional ways to help protect your baby from RSV and other colds include washing your hands and minimizing time in or exposure to indoor crowds.
Pediatricians are eager to have new and better ways to protect their youngest patients from severe RSV infection, hospitalization, and death.
Next RSV season, we hope all infants and toddlers who need it have access to the new immunization. Then, parents will have a choice in how they protect their babies: RSV vaccine during pregnancy or the immunization for their baby after they are born.
Be sure to talk with your Kids First Pediatrics provider about ways to prevent serious illness from RSV. Raleigh: (919) 250- 3478 Clayton: (919) 267-1499.
Vanessa L. Hill, MD, FAAP, is an Associate Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and Medical Director of Utilization & Resource Management at CHRISTUS Children’s in San Antonio, Texas. Her clinical research and interests are in bronchiolitis and asthma in pediatric hospital medicine.
*This article is informational but is not a substitute for medical attention or information from your provider.