RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – A new shot can help protect babies from the highly contagious respiratory virus, RSV, but local doctors say there aren’t enough shots to go around.
“We’re already seeing RSV. I’ve diagnosed it today and diagnosed yesterday,” noted Dr. Ben Meares with Raleigh Children and Adolescents Medicine. “It’s a very contagious virus, causes lots of hospitalizations and lots of problems with babies.”
Dr. Meares is excited to have a new weapon against RSV, a recently approved shot that can protect babies. There’s just one problem: it’s very difficult for doctors to get. The North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services says “immediate high demand” for the shot exceeded initial supplies from manufacturers.
Health systems and doctors offices across the area are having a tough time getting enough. UNC Health reports they are still waiting on the shots, and hopes to have some soon. WakeMed and Duke Health both say they have received a limited supply.
Duke University Professor of Pediatrics, Dr. Ganga Moorthy, says doctors at Duke are prioritizing children at the highest risk for RSV complications including, “Children who are immunocompromised or were born premature or require medical care due to medical complexity and other children who would be most at risk.”
Angela Johnson, pharmacy director at Wake County Health and Human Services, says the county health department has shots for children who are part of the Federal Vaccines for Children Program, which helps uninsured or underinsured kids, but the health department doesn’t have any additional shots for other patients.
“It’s definitely frustrating because you want to be able to get off the ground running with this,” said Johnson. “The sooner you get the injection it takes about two weeks for it to really kick in, and so you want everybody to be prepared.”
Meares says at first, his office will only be able to get the shots for babies who weigh less than 11 pounds. To further complicate matters, the shots cost doctors’ offices about $500 each, so they don’t want to order more than they need.
“It’s it’s expensive for us to procure, so we want to have babies lined up to get it as soon as we get it shipped,” Meares said.
According to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, manufacturers are expected to have new supplies available every two to three weeks, but it’s not clear when there will be enough supply to meet demand.