RSV antibody treatment in short supply, vaccines limited

RSV vaccine shortage

RSV vaccine shortage

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a Health Alert Network (HAN) Health Advisory on Monday alerting clinicians to the shortage of the nirsevimab-alip antibody treatment, which is administered to infants to prevent Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV).

The CDC is recommending clinicians reserve the antibody treatment for infants under 6 months old and infants with underlying conditions that put them at risk for contracting the virus, according to the HAN advisory.

The antibody treatment is also being prioritized for Indigenous and Alaska Native children between 8 months and 19 months old who live in remote regions, as transporting children with severe RSV in those areas is more challenging.

Most people infected with RSV catch the virus during the first year of their life, according to the CDC. The virus is the leading cause of hospitalization among infants in the U.S. and the highest number of cases infect infants younger than 3 months.

The nirsevimab-alip antibody treatment is a new, one-time shot that contains a lab-made antibody that helps the immune system fight off the virus. Sold under the brand name Beyfortus, the drug was developed by AstraZeneca and Sanofi.

In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved it, and the next month the CDC recommended it for infants born just before or during the RSV season and for those less than 8 months old before the season starts. They also recommended a dose for some 8- to 19-month-olds at higher risk of a serious illness.

“We are really hoping and pushing that people who are pregnant can be vaccinated to alleviate some of those supply concerns,” said Jessica Munroe, the vaccine management and improvement unit supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Health.

There’s been a slow rollout, however, of the RSV vaccine for pregnant people in Minnesota.

“We’re talking with our partners at CDC, they’re talking with their partners at the various federal agencies who have levers to pull,” said Monroe. “Because it is a conundrum.”

The FDA approved the single-dose bivalent Pfizer ABRYSVO vaccine in August. In September, the CDC issued its guidance on the shot. The vaccine is recommended for people who are 32 to 36 weeks pregnant, September through January.

M Health Fairview, Walgreens and St. Paul Corner Drug confirmed they are administering it.

“We’ve had people travel 40 miles to us to get vaccinated,” said John Hoeschen, the owner and pharmacist at St. Paul Corner Drug. “Our understanding is there’s not a lot of places you can get them, so more and more we’re having people call.”

They’ve given out about 50 to 60 RSV vaccines to pregnant people over the last few weeks. According to Hoeschen, supply is keeping up with demand.

Not all pharmacies are offering the shot yet.

A spokesperson for CVS said in a statement, “We’re working through the final stages of operationalizing maternal RSV administration and hope to begin offering the vaccine to eligible patients sometime next month.”

Allina Health and Health Partners also expect to provide the vaccine in November.

“It’s not available yet on our public programs, meaning the programs MDH administrators for uninsured and underinsured adults,” said Munroe, who was unable to provide a timeline for when it will be available. “The CDC holds these contracts with the manufacturer and they’re telling us they’re working on it hard and we will offer it to our providers that participate in the program as soon as it’s available on the CDC contract.”

She added, “It’s not unusual anytime a new vaccine comes out to have bumps in the road in terms of supply.”

The difficulty obtaining a vaccine coincides with an increase in RSV cases in Minnesota.

“Our schedule for doing vaccines is full for the next couple of weeks,” said Hoeschen. “So we’ve made it clear on our website, if you’re looking for an RSV vaccine and you’re pregnant and you’re in that window of opportunity, 32 through 36 weeks, that you can call us as we’ll just double book you and get you in.”

He added, “I would just hope that more places start to offer it so it’s more widely available.”

RELATED: Final trial RSV vaccine data released; confirms promising results

RELATED: Minnesota pharmacies see children’s medication shortage during early flu surge

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

RSV antibody treatment in short supply, vaccines limited

RSV antibody treatment in short supply, vaccines limited