High-risk children enrolled in Medicaid and two children’s health programs will be able to access the medication Synagis in the coming weeks to combat an earlier-than-expected resurgence of respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), state health authorities say.
The Texas Health and Human Services Commission (HHSC) makes Synagis (palivizumab) available through Medicaid, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and the Children with Special Health Care Needs Services Program each year. But the timing of HHSC’s latest announcement may seem unusual to physicians because RSV – a disease that poses a serious threat to children 1 year old and younger – typically is active in fall and late winter.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in Texas in March 2020, RSV infections have emerged during the spring and summer instead, an HHSC spokesperson said in an email interview.
“This decrease in activity [in fall and winter] may have been partially related to precautions taken to prevent COVID-19 infection,” the agency representative said.
In 2021, HHSC made Synagis available from June to early September. This year, the availability began June 1 and will continue in each Texas public health region until the percentage of positive RSV tests in that region falls below a certain level, HHSC says.
Synagis also is available through the Medicaid outpatient pharmacy formulary year-round to be used whenever medically necessary, but “it would not be appropriate to use the medication at times or in locations when RSV activity is absent or very low,” the HHSC spokesperson said.
There is no vaccine for RSV, but Synagis delivers prophylactic antibodies to patients via a monthly injection to reduce the risk of acquiring the virus or the severity of symptoms. This is especially important for young children at increased risk of hospitalization for RSV infection.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends up to five monthly prophylactic injections for high-risk groups. But if RSV persists, patients may need a longer course of treatment.
“Health care [professionals] can reduce the chance of severe RSV infection by making sure all underlying conditions are treated optimally,” the HHSC spokesperson said. “Parents and caretakers should avoid exposing children, especially premature infants and other vulnerable children, to secondhand cigarette smoke.”