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FOR RELEASE: May 2, 2001
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Summer Shortage of DTaP Vaccine Prompts Action

A nationwide shortage of a common childhood vaccine, DTaP, has prompted the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) to postpone at least one required shot until the DTaP vaccine supply is reestablished.

The combined diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP) vaccine is in short supply as a result of two manufacturers abruptly ceasing production. With only two other manufacturers continuing to produce DTaP, the shortage period is expected to last between 12 to 18 months. It takes about 11 months to produce the vaccine.

DTaP vaccine is recommended as a five-dose series: three doses given to infants at 2, 4 and 6 months of age followed by two boosters at 15 to 18 months and 4 to 6 years. As a result of not having enough vaccine to meet summer needs, the OSDH is recommending providers temporarily suspend the fourth DTaP dose unless the child is over 4 years old. Oklahoma school and day care immunization requirements currently mandate five doses; however, an effort will be made to ensure that no students lacking the fourth dose due to the temporary vaccine shortage will be refused admission.

In an effort to assure that no state runs out, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has instituted vaccine rationing among state and territorial immunization programs. OSDH officials acknowledge that they are already “feeling the pinch” with respect to their public vaccine providers.

“Oklahoma's DTaP allocation for May through August will be 20 to 40 percent lower than what was received last year during those months,” said Don Blose, OSDH Director of Immunization. “In order to assure than none of the more than 700 state providers who receive public vaccine run out, we have no choice but to cut orders beginning immediately.”

Blose said the postponement of the fourth dose is recommended to assure that babies receive base immunity. “We want to place our highest priority on vaccinating infants with the initial three doses and our second highest priority to the pre-kindergarten booster at age 4 to 6 years.”

Blose added, “We hope that this temporary suspension will be short felt. Although the shortage is expected to last at least a year, our primary concern will be during the summer when demand for immunizations are at a peak.”

State Epidemiologist Dr. Michael Crutcher indicated he does not expect the temporary deferral to result in increased disease outbreaks. “With the exception of a few cases of pertussis (whooping cough) each year, we rarely see these diseases in Oklahoma. A prolonged shortage, however, could open the door for increased activity in the future if children continued to go without all of the recommended immunizations.”

In the event that the fourth DTaP dose is deferred, health providers are encouraged to keep a list of affected children so that their parents can be contacted later when supplies are adequate.

Blose emphasized, “It's important that parents or guardians understand that this is only a temporary postponement. As soon as the shortage is resolved, children who have missed the fourth dose will need to obtain that dose.”

DTaP is the only childhood vaccine that is currently affected. All other vaccines should be given at the recommended time.

For further information, parents are encouraged to seek the advice of their physician or call their local county health department.

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