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The RSV vaccine shortage is majorly affecting parents and babies across the U.S.

Baby getting vaccine
Tran Van Quyet/Getty

The new RSV vaccine was supposed to be a gamechanger for pregnant people, parents of infants and children under 5 years old, and people over 60 years old. But there’s currently a shortage and it’s extremely hard to get, causing stress and anxiety for thousands across the United States during the peak of RSV season.

Sanofi and AstraZeneca, the manufacturers of the vaccine, grossly underestimated the demand that parents and pediatricians would have for this drug, according to The 19th, an independant and nonprofit newsroom. However, the website reported, “Sanofi has made more immunizations available, releasing another 77,000 doses of the drug this past November, and putting out 230,000 additional ones this week.”

The White House met with the manufacturers because of this shortage, and said they’re continuing to have ongoing conversations about the importance of “proactively planning to increase availability,” and how to ensure this shortage doesn’t happen again for the 2024-25 viral season.

“The Administration will continue this work to ensure every family that needs an RSV immunization can access it,” the White House statement said.

The vaccine is hard to allocate, because it’s made in 50 mg and 100 mg doses. The 50 mg dose is  for infants less than 11 pounds, and the 100 mg for everyone else, according to The 19th. It’s hard for doctors to predict how many babies they will see who weigh less than 11 pounds, versus how many would require the larger dose. This makes it difficult to order the correct amounts, the website said.

However, the website does note that they’re starting to distribute the vaccine directly to hospitals, so babies can get it right away while they’re there. While this makes it harder for pediatricians to give it to older kids, it does help infants, who are more affected by the virus.

RSV infections typically spike during the winter months, and the symptoms can be life threatening for infants and young children (and older individuals) if not treated, according to the American Lung Association. The disease affects approximately 97% of children by the age of 2 years old, per the association’s website, but it is often overlooked at first because it presents like a common cold. It can become severe quickly however, and is the leading cause of hospitalization in all infants, as RSV can cause pneumonia and bronchiolitis in young children, according to NPR. 
RSV symptoms include a sore throat, cough, a runny nose, and headache, according to the American Lung Association. But more severe symptoms include shortness of breath, a worsening cough, high fever, high fever, wheezing, and a bluish tint to the skin.