As the United States copes with a shortage of new immunizations to combat a surge of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infections among infants, the Biden administration is trying to prevent the same issues from developing during the next fall and winter virus season.
In a meeting with drugmakers on Monday, the administration and manufacturers agreed on “proactive planning now to meet next year’s projected demand for immunizations,” the White House said in a readout summarizing the talks.
Few other details were offered by the administration or by Sanofi and AstraZeneca, which are partnered on Beyfortus, the lone RSV immunization on the market for use in infants.
“(The companies) remain in close contact with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Food and Drug Administration, as well as the White House, to explore solutions to address this exceptional demand and actively plan for the 2024-2025 season,” a Sanofi spokesperson wrote in an emailed statement.
The White House also said it stressed to the companies the importance of “working to meet demand with a sense of urgency as we head into the winter season.”
Two weeks ago, seven U.S. Senate Democrats sent a letter (PDF) to Sanofi and AZ raising questions about various aspects of the launch, including Beyfortus' price and the timing of the partners' notifications to the U.S. about the shortage. The Senators asked for answers to their questions by Nov. 30.
“We built an aggressive supply plan to outperform past pediatric immunization launches,” Sanofi said on Wednesday. “However, demand for Beyfortus ... has been higher than anticipated.”
In October, Sanofi and AZ revealed the shortage, saying that demand had outstripped supply. That prompted the CDC to urge doctors to restrict Beyfortus shots to children most at risk for a severe form of the potentially fatal disease. Two weeks ago, the CDC announced the release of 77,000 additional doses of Beyfortus through the Vaccines for Children program.
The CDC has also urged pregnant mothers to use Pfizer's RSV vaccine Abrysvo to protect infants, though the window for use is only from weeks 32 through 36 of pregnancy.