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Amidst a shortage of RSV shots for babies this winter, adults are asked to help

Tiny infant feet.
A pregnant person can get a vaccine against RSV when they’re 32 to 36 weeks pregnant and then pass protection on to their baby.

State health officials are asking adults to practice preventative measures to protect babies from respiratory illness this fall and winter. This comes amid a nationwide shortage of a new immunization specifically for infants.

When administered to babies, the monoclonal antibody product nirsevimab, provides protection against RSV or respiratory syncytial virus. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, monoclonal antibodies, which are man-made proteins, don’t activate the immune system the same way an infection or vaccine would, yet a nirsevimab shot provides protection similar to that of a vaccine.

The protection that nirsevimab provides is called “passive immunity” because it does not come from the person’s own immune system. Instead, the protection comes from antibodies produced outside a person’s body.

Health officials report demand for the new RSV immunization for babies has put it in short supply.

The shortage is expected to last through the winter, which is why Oregon Health Authority’s Dr. Dean Sidelinger advised that adults consider other preventative tools available.

“A pregnant person can get a vaccine against RSV when they’re 32 to 36 weeks pregnant and then that person can pass protection on to their baby,” he said.

New grandparents are encouraged to get the RSV vaccine—there’s no shortage of it. Sidelinger added indoor masking and staying home when sick will also help protect our newest Oregonians.

Last winter, pediatric hospitals throughout Oregon were overwhelmed with respiratory illness cases, including children with RSV. OHA reports 2022 saw the highest level of RSV hospitalizations seen since the arrival of COVID-19.

Sidelinger said by next year’s respiratory illness season, the federal supply chain should open up with an adequate supply of infant immunizations against RSV.

However this year, health care providers have been asked to prioritize distribution of the limited supplies of monoclonal antibody immunizations—based on those infants most likely to experience severe disease.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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