Waco program for new RSV vaccines in place


New vaccines against RSV are now available in Waco for the elderly and those who are pregnant regardless of income or insurance.

“It is critical that older adults, 60 years and up, get vaccinated against RSV because although RSV hospitalizations occur less frequently than COVID-19 and influenza hospitalizations they are more severe,” Dr. Jocelyn Wilson, a primary care physician with Baylor Scott & White Health in Waco, said by email.

While most will experience symptoms comparable to a common cold with an RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, infection, it can be severe and even life-threatening for certain older adults at high risk and for very young children, according to the American Lung Association.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention also estimates RSV kills 100 to 300 children younger than 5 across the United States each year.

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This past summer, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved two vaccines for RSV for the first time. The approvals came with complete testing and full licensure, rather than the emergency use authorization the FDA gave the COVID-19 vaccines initially, said Cindy Murphey, a nurse with the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District who runs its vaccine programs.

One of the vaccines is approved for adults 60 and older. The other is approved for both older adults and for people in the last five weeks of pregnancy during RSV season, which runs through autumn and winter.

Vaccines for RSV and also an updated COVID-19 booster, as well as the seasonal flu shot, are available now at commercial pharmacies including Walgreens, H-E-B, Walmart and others. The vaccines are available for little to no cost for people with health insurance.

Most people can safely get all three vaccines in a single appointment, according to the CDC.

The vaccines are also available now to people with or without insurance at the Waco-McLennan County Public Health District. For the uninsured or underinsured, state programs provide the vaccine and pay the nurses who administer them. The program requires a $10 administration fee per shot.

An IV treatment to prevent RSV in infants 6 months and younger is currently available at the health district only for the uninsured and underinsured. The health district has a supply of the IV product backordered for people with insurance.

Respiratory syncytial virus, better known as RSV, is an illness that usually looks like the common cold if contracted by adults. However, it is most common in infants and in younger hosts can lead to more serious health threats like bronchitis and pneumonia. Veuer’s Tony Spitz has the details.

State financial laws prevent supplies bought for the state program for the uninsured and underinsured from being sold to people with insurance, Murphey said. Likewise, doses bought to be administered to people with a health plan may not be administered through the state program.

The RSV vaccines became available to the health district in October, health district spokesperson Clare Paul said.

The Waco City Council approved fees Tuesday for RSV vaccines the health district administers to people with insurance. The city will bill insurance providers $300 for an adult dose, Murphey said. When the IV infusion for infants becomes available for insured patients, the city will charge their insurance providers about $540 per dose.

Adults considered to be at high risk for RSV and COVID-19 include those 65 and older as well as those with certain long-term health conditions and those who are diagnosed as immunocompromised.

The CDC recommends an RSV vaccine for people 60 and older to prevent hospitalization or death from severe RSV, and for pregnant people who enter their last month of pregnancy between September and January, to prevent severe RSV disease in newborn babies.

Because most people between the ages of 2 and 60 who get an RSV infection experience mild symptoms, the CDC does not recommend an RSV vaccine for them, Murphey said. Those with chronic health conditions should consult their health care provider to determine whether to get an RSV vaccine.

An updated COVID-19 booster is also available and recommended in addition to the new RSV vaccine.

The FDA in September authorized an updated COVID-19 vaccine for youths and children ages 6 months to 11 years and approved two updated COVID-19 vaccines for people 12 years and older. Earlier this month, the FDA authorized a third updated COVID-19 vaccine for people 12 and older.

Pharmaceutical companies developed the RSV vaccine in response to the number of hospitalizations among more vulnerable populations. The CDC tracks RSV cases and estimates nationwide impacts. The Texas Department of Health and Human Service records numbers of RSV test results voluntarily reported to the agency.

In adults 65 and older each year across the United States, RSV leads to between 60,000 and 160,000 hospitalizations and 6,000 to 10,000 deaths, according to the CDC. In children younger than 5, it causes 58,000 to 80,000 hospitalizations and 100 to 300 deaths. Total RSV deaths and hospitalizations are not tracked and estimated in the state of Texas.

Texas does track the weekly numbers of people of all ages who test positive for RSV, with that weekly number being no more than about 1,500 statewide from July 2021 through August 2022. Complete numbers for 2022-23 are not yet available on the Texas Department of State Health Services website.

For comparison, RSV hospitalizes and kills more older and very young people nationwide than those of all ages receiving injuries or dying in Texas vehicle crashes.

In 2022, 4,481 people died in vehicle crashes, down from the 4,497 deaths recorded in 2021, according to Texas Department of Transportation. There were 15,299 serious injury crashes in Texas in 2022, with 18,880 people sustaining a serious injury.


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