As cases of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) continue to rise, vaccines become harder to get due to new restrictions from health officials.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia sent a notice to patients on the morning of Wednesday, Nov. 29 sharing that they are complying with the CDC’s RSV vaccine recommendations and will not be able to fulfill all vaccine appointments given the new guidance.
“Overwhelming demand for this medication has exceeded the manufacturer’s expectations, and it is now in short supply nationally,” the statement read. “Unfortunately, the supplier will not be able to provide any more doses of the medication to CHOP or any other organization in the region this season. As a result, CHOP will not be able to administer this as we had planned.”
What is RSV?
RSV is a common respiratory virus that usually causes mild, cold-like symptoms. While people of any age can develop RSV and usually recover in a week or two, it is most common in children under two years old and can be severe, especially for infants and older adults, according to the CDC.
RSV is the most common cause of bronchiolitis, an inflammation of the lower airways, and pneumonia in babies, according to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP).
RSV season typically runs from fall into winter.
What are the symptoms of RSV?
People usually show symptoms of respiratory RSV within four to six days of being infected, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Symptoms, which typically appear in stages and not all at once, include:
- Runny nose
- Decrease in appetite
- Wheezing or trouble breathing
In very young infants with RSV, the only symptoms may be irritability, breathing difficulties and decreased activity. RSV can also lead to the chest caving in when breathing, grunting noises when breathing and skin turning purple or blue due to lack of oxygen.
RSV vaccine shortage
In August, the monoclonal antibody shot Beyfortus (nirsevimab) was recommended for all infants under 8 months old entering their first RSV season. Children 8 to 19 months old who are at increased risk of severe diseases were also allowed to get the shot if they were entering their second season, according to health officials.
As cases of RSV continue to climb, the CDC has advised health care providers to prioritize higher doses of the vaccine for those most at risk of contracting RSV – which includes infants younger than 6 months old and infants with underlying conditions putting them at risk for severe disease – due to a limited supply of the vaccine and unanticipated demand nationwide.
Providers should stop using the Beyfortus vaccine for children 8 to 19 months old and instead use Synagis (palivizumab), according to the CDC’s latest recommendations. Beyfortus should only continue to be offered to American Indian and Alaska Native children in this age group who are not Beyfortus-eligible and who live in remote regions, where transporting children with severe RSV for escalation of medical care is more challenging or in communities with high rates of RSV among older infants or toddlers, according to the CDC.
Amid the shortage, the CDC has also recommended that health care providers encourage pregnant people to receive the RSVpreF vaccine to prevent RSV-associated lower respiratory tract disease in infants.
How to prevent RSV
The CDC recommends the following to limit the spread of RSV:
- Stay home when sick.
- Cover your coughs and sneezes with a tissue or shirt sleeve. Do not use your hands.
- Wash your hands often with soap and water for at least 20 seconds, especially if in contact with infants.
- Avoid touching your face with unwashed hands.
- Avoid close contact with others or allowing others to have close contact with your baby, especially kissing, shaking hands and sharing cups and eating utensils.
- Clean frequently touched surfaces like phones, doorknobs and remotes.
The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia adds that parents should keep children home when they are sick, limit the number of people in contact with their baby, keep their baby away from tobacco smoke and crowded areas and ask sick individuals to hold off on visiting.
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