WASHINGTON – After grappling with an early season flu vaccine shortage, Maryland health officials now face a shortage of the adult tetanus and diphtheria toxoid shot, even though supplies are currently in good shape.
The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported Thursday that a temporary shortage of adult tetanus and diphtheria shot could last until early 2001. That shortage will be felt in Maryland, state officials said.
“We’re hoping this situation will resolve itself very quickly,” said Greg Reed of the Maryland Center for Immunization.
Reed said he thinks physicians around the state have supplies at the moment, but added, “We realize we will be experiencing difficulty acquiring the vaccine in the near future.”
As supplies dwindle, the state will follow guidelines issued by the CDC, which include limiting the shot to people traveling to countries where the risk for acquiring diphtheria is high.
The tetanus and diphtheria toxoid is primarily administered to adults as a means to prevent tetanus, a sometimes-deadly disease caused by a wound infection, such as when stepping on a rusty nail and breaking the skin.
The shortage should only affect adults who need a shot to protect them against tetanus after such an injury, and they can be treated with a tetanus toxoid shot if necessary, the CDC said.
The shortage could also affect those who are updating their shot, which physicians recommend adults receive boosters every 10 years, according to the CDC.
Reed said that children over 7 who need the shot could also be affected. They are required to get the shot, according to immunization guidelines. Reed said the state will work hard to find doses to ensure that no child misses school because he or she could not obtain the shot.
The CDC blamed the shortage of tetanus shots on lower-than-expected releases by the two pharmaceutical companies that manufacture the shot, Wyeth- Lederle and Aventis Pasteur.
Reed said most vaccine shortage problems could be resolved if there were more companies available to produce vaccines. There are not enough manufacturers in the nation right now to compensate for problems at another. If Coca-Cola had trouble producing its soda, for example, people would have other soft drinks to choose from until more Coke was available, Reed said.
Len Lavenda, spokesman for Aventis Pasteur, said this year’s problems were “very rare occurrences” and that he did not think there was a shortage of vaccine manufacturers.
A representative for Wyeth-Lederle did not return calls for comment.