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Tetanus vaccine is running short

But shots are available for tots, high-risk patients

SHARE Tetanus vaccine is running short

Adults and adolescents who need a tetanus-diphtheria vaccine booster will have to wait until at least the first of 2002.

Only people who meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention high-risk criteria will be able to get the vaccine. And it will only be available through hospitals and country health departments, as long as there is a shortage.

The shortage does not affect the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines tailored for infants and preschoolers, which will still be readily available at the doctor's office.

The shortage began in January when Wyeth, a vaccine maker, stopped producing it. Aventis Pasteur MSD, now the sole manufacturer, plans to provide enough to meet national needs, but it takes about 11 months to produce the vaccine, according to Linda Abel, Utah Department of Health immunization manager.

The manufacturer recently sent letters to doctors telling them they would no longer be able to purchase the vaccine.

It's not cause for great alarm, according to Abel. "We need people to understand that just for the regular boosters, they would not be receiving those. But we haven't encountered a lot of concern. We're monitoring supplies and the hospitals have been able to get the doses they need for people at highest risk for wound management.

Four categories of individuals should receive the vaccine if they're over age 7: People traveling to countries where the risk for diphtheria is high, those who need the shot to prevent tetanus as part of their wound management, those tho have received fewer than three doses of tetanus and diphtheria vaccines during their lifetime and pregnant women who have not received a tetanus booster in the past 10 years.

Those people need to get a referral from their health care provider to receive the vaccination as long as a shortage is in effect, Abel said.

Because summer is a time when more people are apt to be outdoors and injure themselves, there's more concern about getting the vaccine this time of year, according to a department spokesman, Steve McDonald. "If someone has had their diphtheria tetanus booster within the last five years, they don't need to get another one," he said.

If they haven't, they will fit the priority list because the shot is needed for wound care.

E-MAIL: lois@desnews.com