CDC providing more than 77,000 extra doses of the RSV immunization for infants

Fall weather means it's virus season. RSV is one of the main culprits circulating at the moment, and it can pose a serious threat to babies and the elderly.
Published: Nov. 17, 2023 at 7:08 PM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released more than 77,000 additional doses of Beyfortus, an immunization designed to protect infants against severe respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), the health agency announced in a statement.

“These additional doses will be distributed immediately to physicians and hospitals through the Vaccines for Children Program and commercial channels – improving the availability for parents seeking to protect their eligible children, particularly those at highest risk of severe illness,” the CDC statement said.

“It is a very precious vaccine at the moment. It is like little liquid gold for sure,” said Bon Secours pediatrician Dr. Anne Marie Touhy. “I still don’t have a ton, but I mean, I have some. And then, we’ve ordered at our other office to be able to get more.”

The need for extra vaccines is especially critical in the fall and winter months.

“CDC and FDA are committed to expanding access to this important immunization so that more parents have peace of mind during the winter virus season,” said Dr. Nirav D. Shah, CDC’s principal deputy director.

RSV is a common respiratory illness and the CDC says it is the leading cause of hospitalization among American infants. The majority of those who end up in the hospital are younger than three-months-old.

“We have a vaccine to offer to children who are less than five kilos, which is about less than 11.5 pounds, so mostly newborns within the first few weeks of life is what we have available,” Dr. Tuohy said.

Early symptoms of RSV can resemble a cold, with a runny nose and congestion.

“But very quickly, it becomes quite a very congested cough, where the kids can be wheezing and working harder to breathe, using their extra muscles kind of around their ribs and belly,” Dr. Tuohy said.

The vaccines are expensive, so not all private pediatrician offices will have them available.

“The cost is $495. And insurances have been kind of slow to decide how much they’re going to reimburse,” said Dr. Tuohy. “So as you can imagine, that comes in a box of five, so that’s $2,500. And if you have to eat that cost as the private practice, it’s not easy to do.”

Families with public insurance can access the RSV immunization through the federally-funded Vaccines for Children Program at no cost to them.

The CDC says the program provides vaccines to half of America’s children.

The CDC and FDA will continue to be in close contact with manufacturers to ensure the availability of additional doses through the end of this year and for early 2024 to meet the demand, the CDC said in its statement.