A child infected with RSV receives treatment as RS infections spread among children at the Missio Moenchberg Children’s Clinic, in Wuerzburg, Germany, December 2, 2022.
Heiko Becker | Reuters
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention hastened the release of more than 77,000 additional doses of a new drug designed to protect infants against respiratory syncytial virus amid continued shortage of treatment in the US
The CDC’s move late Thursday to increase the availability of Beyfortus, a monoclonal antibody from Sanofi and AstraZeneca which won approval in August as RSV cases increase in some parts of the country ahead of the holiday season. The drug is one of two treatments available in the US that can protect infants against the virus, which is the leading cause of hospitalization among infants nationwide.
Sanofi and AstraZeneca did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the CDC announcement.
Hospitals and pediatricians are having trouble dispensing Beyfortus because of what Sanofi described as “unprecedented demand“for the treatment. The shortage – and other issues related to insurance coverage – threatens to prevent infants from receiving critical protection against RSV.
RSV is a common respiratory infection that usually causes mild cold-like symptoms, but can present as more severe cases in children and older adults.
Each year, the virus kills a few hundred children under the age of 5 and 6,000 to 10,000 elderly people, according to the CDC. RSV also causes about 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations in children younger than 5 years old each year, the CDC said.
The CDC said the additional doses will be distributed immediately to doctors and hospitals through commercial channels and the Children’s Vaccine Program, which covers the cost of vaccines for uninsured and underinsured children.
The CDC said the agency, along with the Food and Drug Administration, will continue to work closely with drug manufacturers to ensure additional doses are available through the end of this year and into early 2024 to meet demand.
“CDC and FDA are committed to expanding access to this important vaccination so more parents can have peace of mind during the winter virus season,” said CDC Principal Deputy Director Dr. Nirav Shah. in a statement.
The US began seeing a sharp rise in RSV cases in mid-October. Nearly 5,000 cases were detected through testing in the U.S. in the week ending Nov. 4, the highest level since last winter, according to the CDC website.
The US suffered an unusually severe RSV season last year. Cases of the virus in children and the elderly overwhelmed hospitals across the country, largely because the public stopped practicing the Covid pandemic health measures that had helped keep the spread of RSV down.