Diana Olson - (703) 299-0201
October 6, 2004
The following statement can be attributed to Martin G. Myers, MD, Executive Director of the National Network for Immunization Information (NNii):
On average, influenza causes approximately 36,000 deaths and 200,000 hospitalizations each year in the United States. More than 90% of influenza-related deaths are in people aged 65 years or older, although during the 2003-2004 influenza season, there were 152 influenza-related deaths in chldren. Also, many of those hospitalized are children aged 6 to 23 months.
Yesterday, Chiron Corporation announced that it will not be able to supply Fluvirin® Influenza Virus Vaccine for the 2004-2005 influenza season. This will seriously affect the influenza vaccine supply in the United States for the upcoming influenza season.
In addition to there being insufficient vaccine for all who need it, there is likely to be a problem with equitably distributing the available vaccine to those who need it the most. As influenza vaccine is ordered well in advance of vaccine availability, it is likely that some healthcare providers will have their full supply of vaccine while others will have none. Because influenza vaccine is almost exclusively in the private sector, the Department of Health and Human Services’ plea for “the help of the public, the public health community and the medical community to make sure that the vaccine goes to those who truly need it most” will be especially important.
The present potential shortage is not something new in the nation. For instance, in the past 5 years, the United States has experienced shortages of influenza, diphtheria-tetanus-acellular pertussis (DTaP), tetanus and diphtheria (Td), measles-mumps-rubella (MMR), varicella, and pneumococcal conjugate vaccines.
Thus, this current shortage once again emphasizes the fragility of the vaccine supply system in the United States and the world. Causes of vaccine shortages include: manufacturing or production problems that result in interruption of vaccine supply; companies leaving the vaccine marketplace because they are not as profitable as other products; changes in manufacturing recommendations; and limited vaccine stockpiles. In the case of influenza vaccine, it would be difficult to maintain a vaccine stockpile because the vaccine is different each year.
NNii urges DHHS to strengthen the vaccine supply system and infrastructure to avoid placing people at risk of vaccine-preventable diseases.
The National Network for Immunization Information (NNii) provides up-to-date, science based information about immunizations to health professionals, the public, policymakers, and the media. NNii is based at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston and is affiliated with the Infectious Diseases Society of America, the Pediatric Infectious Diseases Society, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Nurses Association, the American Academy of Family Physicians, the National Association of Pediatric Nurse Practitioners, and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists.
For more information, visit www.immunizationinfo.org