TEXAS (KXAN) — In July, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced approval of a new drug aimed at preventing respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) in infants and young children two years and younger. Now, shortages in shot supply levels are leaving many families without access to the drug, as respiratory illnesses spread in the greater Austin region ahead of the colder winter season.
“I think nationally and even locally, the demand for the RSV [shot] was a lot larger than the manufacturers were anticipating,” said Rannon Ching, president and chief pharmacy officer at Tarrytown Pharmacy in Austin. “We’re starting to see these shortages, because they only produce a certain amount [of shots], and the demand for that has been a lot more.”
There are three different types of shots available related to RSV: one for adults age 60 and older, a second for people who are between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant and a third shot for young children. Only the shot pertaining to young children is facing this volume of supply gaps, Ching said.
It comes at a time when respiratory illnesses are more prevalent in the greater Austin area, he said. Ching said his pharmacy has seen a number of patients testing positive for the flu and COVID-19 at the pharmacy as well as via at-home tests, adding anecdotally he’s seen that RSV-positive cases are making the rounds.
This comes before cold weather has made a more permanent stay in Austin, adding he expects those levels to rise as we head toward the winter months.
“We’re starting to see the respiratory illnesses increase, and we’re going to only see that kind of further as the season gets colder and a little bit deeper into the late part of the year,” he said.
In an Oct. 23 statement, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a statement regarding the limited supplies of baby-friendly RSV shots. As a result, the CDC recommended prioritizing infants ages six months or younger to receive the monoclonal antibody dose, as well as infants with any underlying conditions that put them at higher risk for a severe RSV case.
In its statement, the CDC added it recommended suspending use of the drug in babies ages eight months to 19 months for the duration of the 2023-24 season.
Ching recommended parents with babies under the qualifying age range or who have pre-existing conditions contact their pediatrician or area children’s hospitals for information regarding any shot supplies. When looking at Tarrytown Pharmacy’s manufacturer ordering software, he said there’s no supply available for him to order.
Instead, he stressed preventative measures that older adults or pregnant ones can take. Those between 32 and 36 weeks pregnant do qualify for an RSV vaccine that can protect both the mother and the unborn child, giving them antibodies before birth. Those ages 60 and older can also receive a single dose vaccine to protect them from heightened risk of serious RSV disease, per the CDC.
Ching said those vaccine opportunities are a means of protecting a young baby from contracting RSV, should they not be able to receive the monoclonal antibody shot themselves.
“Especially if you’re a grandparent or if you are currently pregnant, get that RSV vaccine that is available as an adult, because then you can kind of protect the baby by protecting yourself and then protecting them,” he said. “And then doing your best to look up hand hygiene and winter sickness prevention things that you can, but kind of doing everything you can to prevent even bringing the sickness in.”