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Shortages of vaccine dose lead to temporary suspension

Due to possible vaccine shortages, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the American Academy of Pediatrics, and the American Academy of Family Physicians are recommending that health care providers postpone the final dose of the four-dose pneumococcal vaccine series until the supplies are restored.

The limited supply was first reported in December and Wyeth Vaccines, the only U.S. supplier of the 7-valent pneumococcal vaccine, has since announced that supplies will remain limited at least through July 2004. The shortage is a result of production problems at Wyeth.

The vaccine can help prevent serious pneumococcal disease such as meningitis and blood infections. Invasive pneumococcal disease is responsible for about 200 deaths each year among children under five years old. It is the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in the United States. Children under two are at highest risk. Before a vaccine is available, each year pneumococcal infections caused more than 700 cases of meningitis, 13,000 blood infections, and about five million ear infections.

The recommendation calls for health care providers to administer one dose at two months, one dose at four months, and one dose at six months. However, doctors should continue to give the fourth dose to children at increased risk of severe disease. The CDC believes that the fourth dose can be safely withheld in healthy children. Those children whose booster dose is postponed should receive PCV7 on their first visit after supplies return to normal. This recommendation is not expected to have any harmful health consequences for children.

The CDC estimates that the recommended action will help conserve more than one million doses by July 2004.

April 2004 Update

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