Tetanus Vaccine Shortage Leads Hospitals to Ration Shots
A nationwide shortage of the tetanus vaccine has led many hospitals to reserve the shot for burn victims and other "severely injured patients," the AP/Philadelphia Inquirer reports. For now, the shortage only applies to the adult tetanus vaccine, not the children's version(AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/20). Late last year, the CDC warned that a decline in production of the adult tetanus vaccine could lead to a shortage (Huff, Ft. Worth Star-Telegram, 2/20). The situation was aggravated when Wyeth-Ayerst Laboratories last month "stunned" hospitals by "suddenly" halting production of the vaccine, a move the company described as a "business decision" (AP/Washington Times, 2/20). Only one drug maker -- Aventis Pasteur -- is still producing the vaccine, and is "working round-the-clock" to keep the supply from dropping further. However, since each batch takes 11 months to produce, the shortage may last until the end of the year (Washington Post, 2/20). The CDC is particularly concerned about the shortage's impact on adult illnesses this spring, when "vaccine demand rises along with a seasonal jump in injuries" (AP/Philadelphia Inquirer, 2/20).
Health experts said that the tetanus vaccine shortage "comes during one of the worst drug shortages facing hospitals in years," as many hospitals are struggling with dwindling supplies of several key medications (Baltimore Sun, 2/20). The AP/Nando Times reports that Abbott Laboratories has "run out" of Isuprel, a drug which hospitals keep on hand to revive cardiac arrest victims. Narcan, a drug used to reverse morphine overdoses, is also in short supply. Drug shortages can be caused by several factors, including temporary "spikes" in the medicine's demand or a decision by a pharmaceutical company's ingredient supplier to stop producing a key chemical. Drug supplies also can be affected when a company is required to halt production due to health violations found by FDA regulators. The FDA and the CDC are currently examining which "critical" drugs are most at risk for shortages, and FDA officials are encouraging smaller drug firms to make a "larger competitor's castoff" (Neergaard, AP/Nando Times, 2/19).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.