by Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
Infectious diseases can pose a threat to all infants, but particularly those born prematurely. Yet public policy and health plan coverage may not offer proper prevention against these threats, explains a new Institute for Patient Access policy brief authored by California neonatologist Mitchell Goldstein, MD.
In the case of diseases targeted by standard childhood immunizations, parents may be misled by fearmongering celebrities or anecdotal evidence. Despite, for example, 13 separate scientific studies demonstrating no link between immunization and autism, some parents continue to harbor unwarranted suspicion against these routine–and vital—protections for their preemies.
A measles outbreak that began in Disneyland last summer illustrates the dangers of not proactively protecting children from preventable infectious diseases. California legislation requiring immunization for children who attend public school has gained support from roughly two thirds of Californians. To properly protect preemies, the policy brief argues, policymakers “must continue to champion logical, evidence-based legislation and promote public dialogue rooted in science.”
Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV) Prophylaxis
Premature infants are also vulnerable to RSV, which their underdeveloped airways and immature immune systems are often not equipped to fight. Though many children face and overcome RSV’s cold-like symptoms unharmed, preemies may develop bronchiolitis or pneumonia. RSV causes roughly 90,000 hospitalizations and 4,500 deaths per year in children five years old and younger.
Though no vaccine for RSV exists, preventative treatment known as palivizumab can help protect preemies from RSV. The Food and Drug Administration has approved palivizumab for treating premature infants up to 35 weeks gestation. Current guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Infectious Diseases, however, recommend palivizumab for only infants born at 29 weeks gestation or earlier. Because Medicaid and private insurers have adopted these guidelines into their coverage policies, many infants lack access to the one treatment that could protect them from this potentially deadly seasonal virus. RSV season begins in November for most states.
To learn more, read “Protecting Premature Infants from Infectious Disease” or watch “Protect Premature Infants from RSV Virus.”