By Amanda Conschafter, blog editor
RSV, or respiratory syncytial virus, season begins November 1 in most states. But this year, thousands of premature infants will brave the season unprotected, due to the American Academy of Pediatrics’ restrictive new guidelines for accessing preventative RSV treatment. A newly released video from the Alliance for Patient Access highlights why the AAP’s restrictive approach puts premature infants – particularly those born to African American and low-income families – at risk.
Though most children face RSV by age 2, premature infants struggle in particular because of their fragile lungs and immature immune systems. In years past, health care providers have used monthly injections of palivizumab at their discretion to help protect vulnerable infants from the deadly virus.
But the AAP’s most recent guidelines limit treatment almost exclusively to infants born before 29 weeks gestation. As state Medicaid programs and private insurers adopt these guidelines, they revise their payment policies to limit coverage accordingly. Few patient families can afford to pay for the treatment out-of-pocket, so this restrictive stance undermines health care providers’ ability to make a professional and patient-specific decision about which infants would benefit from preventative treatment.
Low-income and African American infants are more likely to be born premature – and they therefore bear the burden of both RSV and the new restrictions on preventative treatment access. And, as Susanne Tropez-Sims, MD explains in AfPA’s video, “For African American babies, the situation is compounded due to risk factors such as crowded living conditions and lower rates of breastfeeding.”
Learn more about RSV symptoms, risk factors and preventative treatment access – and hear from one mother of a premature infant who describes RSV as “the most dangerous virus you’ve never heard of.”