Hib Boosters Put on Hold Following Meningitis Vaccine Recall

Hib vaccination guidelines where changed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday, and the agency is now recommending that children no longer be given a Hib booster.  The CDC’s move was an attempt to head off a much-feared shortage of the meningitis vaccine following the Merck & Co. Hib vaccine recall last week.  Merck recalled 1.2 million of doses of the <"http://www.yourlawyer.com/practice_areas/defective_drugs">defective vaccine because problems at the company’s Pennsylvania plant left doubts about their sterility.

The Hib vaccine protects children from Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib), a bacterium that infects the lining of the brain, causing meningitis. Meningitis is caused by several different bacteria. However, before the Hib vaccine, Hib was by far the most common cause of meningitis. Children with meningitis often have fever, stiff neck and drowsiness. Symptoms can progress to include coma and death. Some children recover from the disease but are left permanently paralyzed, deaf, blind or mentally retarded. Hib bacteria also can cause Sepsis (bloodstream infection); Epiglottitis (severe swelling of the epiglottis, a tissue that closes off the windpipe during swallowing); Arthritis; Osteomyelitis (infection of the bones) and Pneumonia.

Previous medication guidelines stated that children should receive their first dose of the Hib vaccine at 2-4 months of age.   That first vaccination was followed by a booster shot at 12-15 months.    Now, the CDC is telling doctors to defer giving the boosters at least for now.  Because 94 percent of toddlers have already been vaccinated against Hib, the illness should not be circulating in the U.S.  The CDC asked doctors to reserve the Hib booster only for those children at high-risk for bacterial meningitis.   They include American Indian children, Alaska Native children and children with asplenia, sickle cell disease, HIV and other immunodeficiency conditions and certain cancers.  Once the Hib vaccine shortage is alleviated, the CDC said doctors can begin giving the boosters to other children again.

Last week, Merck recalled of 1.2 million doses of the Hib vaccine.  Merck claimed the Hib vaccine recall was only a precaution, and said the recalled vaccines where likely safe.  However, pediatricians were instructed to tell parents with children who had recently received the vaccine to call a doctor if the child develops redness at the site of the shot or has a fever soon after.  According to the CDC, there have been no adverse events related to the recalled Merck Hib vaccine.

Merck produces about half of the US Hib vaccine supply, while drug maker Sanofi-Aventis makes the rest.

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