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Shortage of New Therapy for Infants Leaves Parents Frustrated and Worried

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A new therapy called nirsevimab, approved by the CDC to protect infants from the respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), has left parents scrambling to find it for their babies. The limited supply of the therapy, sold under the brand name Beyfortus, has already been outstripped by demand, causing frustration and concern among parents and pediatricians.

Infants at Highest Risk

The CDC has issued interim guidance to help pediatricians allocate the limited supply of nirsevimab. The guidance advises them to focus on infants at highest risk of RSV complications, such as those under 6 months old and those with underlying medical conditions. RSV is the leading cause of hospitalization for babies under 12 months old, with 100-300 deaths in the U.S. each year.

Two New Therapies

Nirsevimab is one of two new therapies available this fall that could reduce the risk of lung infections in infants. The other option is an RSV vaccine called Abrysvo from Pfizer. However, the adult vaccine is only recommended for pregnant people in weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy. This limitation has left infants like Willow, who were born before the vaccine was approved, with nirsevimab as their only option.

High Cost and Bureaucratic Obstacles

The high cost of nirsevimab and bureaucratic obstacles in Medicaid's vaccine allocation system for children are slowing down its distribution. Pediatricians worry that these problems could put infants at risk of hospitalization this winter. In clinical trials, nirsevimab reduced RSV hospitalizations and healthcare visits in infants by almost 80%.

Availability Challenges

The availability of nirsevimab depends on whether providers can get it to newborns efficiently. The most expensive standard childhood shot at $495 per dose, insurers may not reimburse providers for it this year. Additionally, the structure of the Vaccines for Children program, which supplies free shots to about half the children in the U.S., makes it difficult to get nirsevimab to babies right after birth.

Hospitals and Equity

Most hospitals are not part of the Vaccines for Children program, which presents a challenge in getting nirsevimab to newborns. The program's stringent rules and requirements discourage health care providers from enrolling. This has forced some health systems to make difficult choices, potentially creating an equity problem for newborns who may not have access to the shot due to transportation or financial resources.

Concerns and Frustration

The shortage of nirsevimab has left pediatricians and parents concerned and frustrated. Many hospitals are trying to enroll in the Vaccines for Children program for next year, but for now, most won't have free nirsevimab on hand. Pediatricians worry that delayed or absent access to the therapy could potentially put children's lives at risk.

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Overall, the shortage of the new therapy for infants has caused frustration and concern among parents and pediatricians. The limited supply of nirsevimab, combined with its high cost and bureaucratic obstacles, has made it challenging for parents to protect their babies from RSV. Pediatricians and hospitals are working to navigate these issues and ensure that all infants have access to the therapy, regardless of their financial or social circumstances.