Statewide vaccine shortage isn#039;t the case in Austin area

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 20, 2002

Many communities in Minnesota are facing severe shortages of childhood vaccines and are turning patients away, promising to notify them as soon as more vaccines are available.

Fortunately for Mower County, Mower County Public Health and the Austin Medical Center are not experiencing these problems.

Slight shortages, yes, but neither organization has needed to tell large numbers of patients to come back another day, in a few weeks, next month.

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Lisa Kocher, nursing supervisor of Mower County Public Health says "we at Public Health get our vaccines from the Minnesota Department of Health so our supply depends on the supply they have." So far, that supply has been adequate.

"We haven't been that impacted other than having to target people. We can't give to whomever without assessing their need."

The one vaccine that may be in danger of a shortage at Mower County Public Health, Kocher says, is the tetanus vaccine. Supplies have been running low for more than a year because "there were two main manufacturers and one got out of the business which left all this work to one pharmaceutical company," she explains.

As a result, she says they are only giving vaccinations to certain groups of people who need it. Those groups include, "immigrants, seven years and older, who have not had any evidence of a tetanus shot; people traveling to another country and have not been vaccinated within the last 10 years; someone with an open wound; and pregnant women who have not had the vaccine in the last 10 years," Kocher says.

"This is the biggest and longest shortage we do have. The state has even temporarily suspended the law requiring a tetanus booster for seventh graders," she says. "We don't know for sure when the supplies will return to normal, but we do know the state has said the suspension of the law will go on through next year."

Kocher says she also has been warned of possible shortages of the chicken pox vaccine and the vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella because of shipping delays.

She adds she had trouble ordering the pneumococcal vaccine, which prevents a disease similar to pneumonia. "From my experience, that's the one I have tried to order but cannot get. We're not out of it yet, but we're getting really low. With that one, though, one of the reps called me and said they anticipate everyone should be up and running by the summer. Hopefully they're all going to resolve themselves relatively soon," she says.

Meanwhile, the Austin Medical Center, which receives its vaccines directly from the pharmaceutical companies, has been able to maintain its supply and meet the demand, says Carol Weis, director of clinical nursing.

"There are some recommendations on delaying vaccinations such as holding to fourth or fifth dose of a vaccine or delaying one of the doses for six months," Weis says. "For example, with tetanus, rather than giving out the booster recommended every 10 years, it's recommended that we delay routine boosters for kids and adults."

However, she adds, "at this point, we can comfortably maintain adequate supplies, so we haven't had to cut back."

Kocher says if you or your child does experience a delay in receiving a vaccination, it is important to check with Public Health or your physician every few weeks to see if you can get the vaccination. "It's very important to remember those and it's important for parents to play an active role and get the immunizations they need."

Mower County Public Health has a shot clinic from 3:15 to 4:45 p.m. every Friday (except holidays) at the public health offices. For more information, call 437-9770.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at :mailto: