PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – State health officials are urging Oregonians to take precautions against respiratory syncytial virus in infants amid a national shortage of vaccines, the Oregon Health Authority announced Wednesday.
The monoclonal antibody, nirsevimab, known by the brand name Beyfortus, has seen limited supply since it became available in the fall, officials said.
“There has been greater-than-expected demand for this new immunization against RSV,” said Dr. Dean Sidelinger, health officer and state epidemiologist at OHA. “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has told us the supply shortage is not due to any manufacturing issues, but instead due to an underestimation of the demand for nirsevimab following its release.”
While there is a shortage of vaccines, Sidelinger recommends taking precautions to avoid RSV transmission, especially among babies who are most at risk for severe illness, hospitalization, and death.
Among their recommendations, OHA says pregnant people who get the RSV vaccine when they are 32 to 36 weeks pregnant will pass protection from the virus on to their baby, so the child will not need the vaccine after birth.
“Up to 3% of Oregon infants are hospitalized each year with RSV,” said Dr. Melissa Sutton, OHA medical director for respiratory viral pathogens. “As the holiday season approaches and we gather with family and friends, RSV is expected to increase in our communities. Now is the time to plan how you will protect newborns and other young children you might be around as you gather with friends and family members.”
Sutton says similar preventive measures taken during the COVID-19 pandemic can help reduce RSV transmission, such as staying home, limiting contact with others when sick, wearing a mask, covering coughs and sneezes, washing hands, cleaning frequently touched surfaces,
“We know it’s protective to wear a mask around a newborn, especially for family members meeting that baby for the first time,” Sutton said. “Masks are very effective at reducing transmission risk and keeping that child safe.”
OHA also encourages people who are pregnant and people who are 60 years old and older to get a new adult RSV vaccine. A second vaccine, Arexvy, for those 60 and older is also available and there’s a stable supply in Oregon, OHA said – noting shortages of new products are not uncommon and may be difficult to predict.
The CDC recommends vaccine providers prioritize the remaining nirsevimab vaccines for infants younger than six months, American Indian and Alaska Native infants younger than eight months and those eight months to 19 months living in remote regions, along with infants under eight months with underlying health conditions.
Health officials also suggest vaccine providers suspend nirsevimab use in children eight months to 19 months old if they qualify for palivizumab – a preventative antibody that’s been available since 1998 for medically complex infants or babies born prematurely.
Officials suggest clinicians offer the new adult RSV vaccine Abrysvo, made by Pfizer, to pregnant patients. OHA emphasized either nirsevimab for infants or the maternal vaccination are recommended, but not both.
“We understand parents are frustrated over nirsevimab’s limited availability, but this shortage will not be permanent and access to the RSV immunizations will improve,” Sidelinger said. “Until supply improves, remember those basic prevention methods for keeping infants and others safe during respiratory season, and getting your influenza, COVID-19 and adult RSV vaccines.”