WA: Tetanus vaccine will be rationed

greenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread


Tuesday, June 26, 2001 By KEN OLSEN, Columbian staff writer

People will not receive routine tetanus-diphtheria vaccinations the rest of this year because of growing problems with a shortage of the vaccine.

The scarce medications will be saved for patients with tetanus-prone wounds, pregnant women who haven't had a vaccine during the past 10 years, people who haven't had three tetanus-diphtheria shots in their lives, and people traveling to countries where the risk of diphtheria is high, at the recommendation of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In addition, the sole remaining U.S. manufacturer of the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine, Aventis Pasteur, said late last week it will stop providing tetanus vaccine to almost all private physicians. Public health departments and hospitals each will receive 300 vaccines a month. Obstetricians will receive 20 vaccines a month, said Cindy Gleason of the Washington State Department of Health.

The state health department sent a notice to public health districts across the state Monday evening advising them to stick to the CDC guidelines.

"It's a situation where we need (health care) providers to follow these priorities so there will be enough," Gleason said. "And we believe there will be."

Southwest Washington Medical Center uses slightly more tetanus vaccine than is allocated each month, said Ken Cole, spokesman for the medical center. As a result, the hospital is reviewing the new CDC guidelines with its physicians in order to trim all but the essential use of the vaccine.

"In the past, physicians have been somewhat liberal with the use of the vaccine just to be safe," Cole said.

The Southwest Washington Health District, which serves Clark and Skamania counties, likewise is implementing the more rigid rules for dispensing the shots.

"People could come into the walk-in clinic to get the vaccine, but they would have to fit the criteria," said Shareefah Abdullah, spokeswoman for the health district. People should call the health district at 360-397-8089 to make sure they are eligible before coming for the shots. The walk-in clinic normally is open from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday. It is not open this Wednesday morning because of staff training.

The health district dispenses about 75 tetanus-diphtheria vaccines each week and has been seeing increasing demand as the shortage builds.

The shortage developed early this year after Wyeth-Ayerst, the only other U.S. manufacturer, stopped making the tetanus-diphtheria vaccine. It takes 11 months to grow the vaccine, meaning it will take time for Aventis to catch up with normal demand.

Tetanus is caused by a common bacteria that gets into the human body through a wound or break in the skin. The disease is rare. Washington reported 10 cases between 1990 and 1998. Oregon reported nine cases between 1990 and 1999.

People who cut themselves or puncture their skin while in contact with horse manure are at high risk for developing tetanus. That's because the tetanus bacteria lives in a horse's stomach. Senior citizens also are at higher risk because many never were immunized.

Tetanus was the primary cause of death in soldiers in World War I who weren't directly killed by bullets or bombs. By World War II, the vaccine was available and significantly limited the incidence of the disease


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), June 27, 2001

Moderation questions? read the FAQ