CDC postpones Alaska shipments of RSV infant immunizations

Published: Nov. 1, 2023 at 4:32 PM AKDT
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FAIRBANKS, Alaska (KTVF) - Respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is a contagious virus with cold-like symptoms that can be pretty common during the winter months. For a typical, healthy adult this isn’t that big of an issue, but for small infants it can be a different story.

Nirsevimab is a new shot to prevent RSV in infants that was approved by the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in July. Getting ahold of it can be easier said than done, however, despite being brand new, it quickly became popular enough to strain its limited supply.

On October 23 the CDC announced that due to the shortage of nirsevimab, all orders to Alaska will be paused for the next two weeks.

Mishelle Nace, a pediatrician at Fairbanks Memorial Hospital, explained when nirsevimab became available doctors hailed it as a “game changer.”

“Getting an immunization to prevent RSV is something that should be done when the infant is just very young, in the baby’s first week of life is when it’s recommended. The younger they are, the more they can be impacted by RSV,” explained Nacde.

Nace added that nirsevimab is not a vaccine in the true sense of the word, which would prompt the body to produce antibodies, whereas “this is basically a shot that gives babies antibodies they don’t have to produce. They just get them, to be able to fight off RSV in its severe form. Some babies may still get RSV, but if they do, its going to be a milder case and not progress to the step where they need hospitalization.”

RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization among infants in the United States. While an adult can often brush off the symptoms, children are far more at risk for the severe form.

At-home precautions for RSV should include washing your hands, staying away from people who are sick, and being careful about taking your infant around crowds. If you are concerned about your child’s cough and stuffy nose, a quick antigen test from your provider can tell you if RSV is the culprit.

“RSV has a season that starts about October and goes through about March,” Nace added. “We have not seen the huge uptick in RSV just yet. It’s going to come later in the season.”

The CDC said that they expect to receive additional supplies of nirsevimab soon, and urges clinicians to prioritize infants who are most at risk.