Tetanus vaccine shortage continues

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Shortage of tetanus diphtheria vaccine changing booster requirements

By Nikki Sattler-The Reporter

BRANCH COUNTY - Schools in Branch County and across the state may have to suspend their tetanus diphtheria (Td) booster requirements for at least a portion of the 2001-2002 school year.

This is due to a shortage of the Td vaccine caused when one of the two companies that manufactures the drug in the United States stopped making the vaccine without notice. It will take time for the other company to pick up the slack so, until then, state health departments and health care providers are playing it safe and rationing what vaccines they have.

"At least until September, (the shortage is) an immediate thing," says Cindy Himebaugh, clinic coordinator for the Branch-Hillsdale-St. Joseph Community Health Agency. "For now, strict rules on who's getting (vaccinated) and how much (are in effect)," she adds.

New parents will not have to worry that their infants will not be getting the proper regimen of vaccinations. Infants receive a different vaccine than Td.

"This is something that's basically going to affect seven years (of age) and up," explains Himebaugh.

Because of that, the Centers for Disease Control and the Michigan Department of Community Health have issued a list of four groups who are considered "priority" and should be vaccinated before others.

The first group consists of those people who intend to travel to a country where diphtheria risk is high. The second group is made up of those individuals who will need a Td vaccination due to a wound. The third group is those who have received fewer than three doses of vaccines containing tetanus or diphtheria components.

The final group consists of pregnant women who have not received Td vaccinations within the last 10 years.

For those who do not fall into one of these groups, vaccinations may or may not be withheld depending on supplies on hand.

So far, area schools have not officially been notified of the requirement change.

"I haven't received anything (concerning the shortage)," says Joe Lopez, superintendent of Quincy Community Schools.

Some other area superintendents echoed that response.

However, they don't see a problem with suspending the rule, providing the Michigan Department of Education gives the go-ahead.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 22, 2001


June 22, 2001

Vaccine shortage brings new restrictions By TIM CHRISTIE The Register-Guard

Recommend this story to others. The next time you step on a rusty nail, you may end up going not to your doctor's office for that tetanus shot, but to the hospital or a public health clinic.

The latest development in a nationwide shortage of the tetanus- diphtheria vaccine came Thursday when the vaccine's sole manufacturer announced it would no longer ship the product to private physicians, according to state public health officials.

That means when doctors deplete their supplies, the vaccine will be available only at hospitals and county health departments, said Dr. Mel Kohn, state epidemiologist at the Health Division.

"It will only be given to people who have tetanus-prone wounds" - meaning particularly dirty cuts - "or those who will be traveling to a country where the risk of diphtheria is high," he said.

The shortage resulted when Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories announced in January it would no longer produce the vaccine. That left Aventis Pasteur as the sole manufacturer of the drug.

The company soon began rationing the vaccine by limiting the amount that could be purchased by hospitals and medical practices. Thursday's announcement further tightens the rationing.

Generally, private doctors' offices use the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine for booster doses, not for treating dirty wounds, said Mimi Luther, vaccine distribution manager at the state Health Division.

"The reason for these new steps is so folks who get a wound can get vaccine," she said.

The shortage is expected to continue until at least 2002, she said, but so far it hasn't created major problems.

The Centers for Disease Control has recommended adults and adolescents defer their 10-year booster shots until next year. The state Health Division has asked summer camps and vocational schools to waive their usual requirements for routine tetanus-diphtheria boosters this year.

Aventis Pasteur announced last month plans to increase production and to fill orders directly with the end-users, rather than relying on distributors. But the vaccine takes 11 months to produce, so there are no quick fixes.

McKenzie-Willamette Hospital in Springfield has been running low for some time but is unlikely to run out, said Greg Ripley, pharmacy director.

"I think Aventis has the ability to keep up with demand at this point," he said. "Generally, when we get very low, we move into action. We talk to people in the supply chain and are able to locate some.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 22, 2001.

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