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3/4/2004

Prevnar Shortage Worsens

Kate Traynor

Three weeks after modifying the dosage schedule for Prevnar, Wyeth's pneumococcal conjugate vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is asking health care providers to defer an additional dose (PDF) to conserve supplies of the vaccine.

The latest recommendation is to defer the third dose of the childhood vaccine, which is normally administered at six months of age. Last month's recommendation was to defer the fourth dose, normally given to children between 12 and 15 months of age.

Children who are at high risk for pneumococcal disease should receive all four doses as recommended in the normal immunization schedule, according to CDC.

The demand for Prevnar has far outpaced its supply since the vaccine was licensed in 2000, resulting in periodic shortages of the product. The current shortage is blamed on production delays that have dramatically worsened in recent weeks, according to CDC.

The agency warned that widespread shortages of Prevnar could extend beyond this summer.

In a statement, Steve Cochi, acting director of CDC's National Immunization Program, acknowledged that delaying the third and fourth doses of Prevnar "is not ideal" but is necessary "to assure that all children receive some protection with at least two doses" of the vaccine.