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FOR RELEASE: March 4, 2002
CONTACT: Dick Gunn
405/271-5601

Childhood Vaccination Shortages Prompt Some Temporary Exemptions

A nationwide shortage of at least six vaccines has prompted health officials to begin granting temporary exemptions to allow school or day care attendance for some children.

In a letter to physicians, the Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) indicated that the vaccines in short supply protect against the following diseases: diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), measles, mumps, rubella, varicella (chickenpox) and pneumococcal disease.

"Physicians and providers who are experiencing shortages in supplies may grant a six-month deferral for required 4th and 5th doses of DTaP, 2nd dose of MMR, or Varicella as needed," said Commissioner of Health Dr. Leslie Beitsch.

Parents and caregivers will be able to obtain a Temporary Exemption form to provide documentation to day care and Head Start programs, or to schools, so they can continue to enroll a child in these types of programs.

Health officials are recommending that health clinics give first priority for vaccine to infants and that older children are immunized as supplies allow. "There should be more than enough vaccine to take care of these very young children," Beitsch said, "however, it is important that parents of infants make sure they get their child into their provider on schedule."

Health officials note that the delays experienced by manufacturers of the vaccines are unprecedented in history. The delays seemingly have been created by a combination of factors rather than an easily identified reason.

The OSDH recommendations originated from information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and are endorsed by the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.

For further information, please call the OSDH Immunization Service at (405) 271-4073.

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