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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

News Center

Parents need to be aware of vaccine shortages

Vaccine shortages have not threatened children's health, but parents should be vigilant about recording which vaccines their children have received and should not cancel doctor visits, said Cheryl Cavallaro, a professor of pediatric nursing at New Mexico State University.

ro said most children are receiving at least part of the required immunizations and "are covered from an immune standpoint."

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), severe shortages now affect eight of the 11 routine childhood vaccines. Cavallaro said that once vaccine stocks are replenished, parents should get their children caught up quickly.

"I don't think parents should look at a child's immunization record and make any calls on their own. If they have questions, they need to call their primary care physician, not make snap judgments," Cavallaro said. "Even though there are shortages, I don't think it's anything that anybody needs to be scared about. We're just going to have to play a little bit of a catch-up game."

Jacalyn Ryberg, another professor of pediatric nursing at New Mexico State, agreed. "Yes, we have a shortage, but it's temporary," she said. "Parents need to be aware of the shortages because they're an integral part of their children's immunization health. Parents, schools and practitioners work very well together, so I think this will be resolved in the very near future as we have the immunizations available."

Cavallaro said there are several reasons for the shortages, including the shutdown of vaccine production at some manufacturers and the unexpected popularity of new vaccines.

Although the nationwide vaccine shortages have led the government to relax childhood immunization schedules, Cavallaro and Ryberg agree that the biggest problem so far is the inconvenience to parents.

Janet Fortin, immunization program planner for District III, New Mexico Department of Health (NMDOH), agreed that the shortages, which she said have occurred gradually, have been more of an inconvenience than a health issue. She said parents should take advantage of National Childhood Immunization Week activities April 14-20.

The health department staff in Las Cruces will, on a walk-in basis, review children's shot records and give needed immunizations that are available. The walk-in sessions will be from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. Tuesday, April 16, and Wednesday, April 17, and from 7 to 11 a.m. Friday, April 19.

According to the NMDOH, New Mexico is a universal vaccine purchase state, which means that 536 doctors' offices in the state receive vaccines through the department's pharmacy. The immunization program is continuing to order and explore other options.

Nationally, the CDC also is exploring other options such as partnering with pharmacies to license vaccines from other countries and looking at incentives for new vaccine manufacturers entering the market.

Fortin said the Dona Ana County Immunization Council, which meets to discuss and share information on immunizations for children and adults, has helped keep communication open among all the groups affected by the shortages. The council includes public health officials, school nurses, pediatricians, nurses and pharmaceutical companies.

For more information about the walk-in clinics, call (505) 528-5006. For more information about immunization programs, call Fortin at (505) 528-5104.

Julie M. Hughes
April 12, 2002