Vaccine shortage study exposes nations 'patchwork' system

ANN ARBOR, MI An ongoing national shortage of a vaccine that prevents meningitis and pneumonia in children has left doctors scrambling to provide even the minimum number of shots, and has exposed gaps in the nation's "patchwork" vaccine system, the first-ever in-depth study of the problem finds.

Three-quarters of 405 doctors' offices surveyed in 12 states reported problems with consistently getting enough of the potentially life-saving vaccine known as Prevnar, and more than half said they had run out completely at least once in the past year, according to a study in the February 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The survey was conducted by researchers at the University of Michigan Health System's Child Health Evaluation and Research (CHEAR) Unit, who have funding from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to conduct studies of vaccine issues.

They found great variation among states in availability of Prevnar, or heptavalent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine. Many of the doctors' offices said they had borrowed Prevnar from public stocks reserved for poor and uninsured children in order to vaccinate privately insured children, or vice versa, as their stock ran out.

"For parents, this means that depending on what state you're in, and the source of vaccine for which you are eligible, you may not have been able to protect your child against these preventable, potentially serious diseases," says lead author Gary Freed, M.D., M.P.H., the Percy and Mary Murphy Professor of Pediatrics and Child Health Delivery in the U-M Department of Pediatrics and Communicable Diseases.

The CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommended Prevnar for children under age 2 in mid-2000, after its approval by the Food and Drug Administration that year. The Prevnar shortage began in 2001, and may continue through 2003, due to high demand and manufacturing problems.

In September, 2001, the shortage led the

Contact: Kara Gavin
University of Michigan Health System

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