U.S. Faces a Number of ‘Prolonged Shortages’ of Vaccines
The nation faces shortages of vaccines for four of 11 diseases that "can be prevented by routine childhood immunization shots," U.S. health officials said Tuesday. The Hartford Courant reports that during a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing, Walter Orenstein, director of the CDC's National Immunization Program, said, "One of the most critical challenges (facing the nation) is addressing the fragility of the vaccine supply." According to the Courant, the United States has had shortages of vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussisand pneumonia and pneumonia-related diseases. Vaccine manufacturers have decided to withdraw from the market in some cases, and some companies have faced problems that range from "difficulty complying" with FDA manufacturing standards to "insufficient" vaccine stockpiles to "ease supply disruptions." In addition, the United States faces a delay in influenza vaccine supplies "for the second consecutive year." One drug maker has halted production, and a second faces production delays as a result of "difficulty in growing the influenza strain" required to manufacture the vaccine. Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said that the United States could face more "serious production delays" in a case where "a plant was sabotaged" or company "failed to meet federal standards" because only one company manufactures them. Orenstein, however, said that NIP has moved to "ease shortages." NIP, for example, has reduced the number of doses recommended for "optimal protection" to a number that "can be managed with limited supplies" and managed distribution of vaccines to ensure "equitable distribution of supplies" nationwide. In addition, NIP has monitored the "production and release" of vaccines at manufacturing facilities. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, added that the government also should offer vaccine manufacturers "a long-term commitment to ensure they will make a profit" to help prevent vaccine shortages (Macdonald, Hartford Courant, 11/29).