Officials hope the problem will be resolved by spring.
By STEPHEN SIFF
VINDICATOR TRUMBULL STAFF
WARREN -- A national shortage has prompted the Ohio Department of Health to require local health departments to reduce or delay giving children common vaccinations.
Children's vaccines in short supply include measles, mumps and rubella (MMR); diphtheria, tetanus and acellular pertussis (DTaP); and Prevnar, a vaccine against meningitis and blood infections.
"The primary concern is that we have enough vaccines for children under 2," said Barbara Bradley, chief of the Bureau of Infectious Disease Control at the Ohio Department of Health.
What's been done: Earlier this month, local health departments were asked to put off giving a second MMR shot, usually scheduled for before a child turns 5, until vaccine supplies improve.
Prevnar, which had been given to infants four times, is now reserved to babies most at risk, she said.
The first MMR shot gives 95 percent protection against the diseases, Bradley said. The second shot raises the protection level higher, but can be given later.
Health departments are also now being asked to order DTaP from the state department of health every month, instead of quarterly, in order to preserve supplies, Bradley said.
The state health department will also ask local departments to inventory their supplies of vaccine, to make sure it is distributed to where it is needed most, she said.
The vaccine crunch, which started in January, results from a shakedown in the number of manufacturers producing children's vaccines, she said.
"Manufacturers are telling us that production will be back up by spring," Bradley said.
Schools notified: In the meantime, the Trumbull County Department of Health has sent a letter warning school districts that some new enrollees for kindergarten may not be able to get all the required shots.
"Right now, the way they are giving the doses, kids are still protected by what is available," said Selene Layton, director of nursing for the Trumbull County Board of Health.
The Mahoning County Board of Health has not contemplated issuing an advisory to schools, said Matt Stefanak, the health commissioner.
"There should not be a large risk if we can get more vaccine into the pipeline," he said.
The shortage also extends to the adult tetanus vaccines. For about a year, health departments and physicians have been unable to give routine booster shots to people who aren't at special risk for tetanus.