Steamboat Springs Local health care providers say they still have an adequate supply of adult tetanus vaccine, but they are closely monitoring its usage and avoiding giving routine vaccinations in order to conserve their existing supply.
When a major manufacturer of the vaccine, Wyeth-Ayerst labs, announced two weeks ago that it would stop making the vaccine used in tetanus shots for economic reasons, it created a shortage of the medicine.
The shots are usually given by injection when a patient suffers a laceration or puncture wound.
Tetanus vaccine wards off a toxin produced by a bacteria that typically enters the body through a wound.
The bacteria are found in soil. Routt County Public Health Nurse Pam Nettleton said left unchecked, tetanus can cause severe muscle spasms that can actually cause severe injury to the patient.
However, they rarely see full-blown cases of the disease because the vaccine is so uncomplicated and widely used.
The nationwide shortage affects only adult versions of the vaccine, not juvenile versions, Gary Haberlan, the pharmacy director at Yampa Valley Medical Center, said.
Haberlan said his hospital definitely isn't out of the vaccine, but wouldn't specify exactly how many doses he has on hand.
"We have an adequate supply," Haberlan said. "And we'll do everything to ensure our patients get the tetanus vaccinations they need."
Nettleton, whose office is an adjunct of the Visiting Nurse Association, said her organization has a three to six month supply of the vaccine and can serve as a backup to the hospital and other medical clinics in Routt County. The length of time her current supply will last could change, if other organization's make calls on it, she said.
"As long as people don't panic and don't run in for a vaccination when they really don't need them, we'll have an adequate supply," Nettleton said.
Adults who have had a booster shot within the last 8 to 10 years don't need another booster, she added.
Routt County Public Health Department's highest priority for its existing supply will go to adults who are planning to travel to developing nations and have not had a tetanus/diphtheria booster within the last 8 to 10 years.
Nettleton explained that most often, the tetanus and diphtheria vaccinations are given as a single injection that's what she has on supply now.
Diphtheria is common in countries on the South American, African and Southeast Asian continents.
It also is common in countries of the former Soviet Union.
Diphtheria is a highly contagious disease also caused by a bacteria-produced toxin.
It can lead to the formation of a false membrane in the throat and inflammation of the heart and nervous system.
Nettleton said in order to conserve her office's supply of the vaccine, it probably will not host a public vaccination day this spring.
Haberlan said he is working directly with a remaining large manufacturer of the vaccine, Aventis Pasteur, which has been supplying him with a "minimum allotment" every other week.
It's typical he said, in times of shortage, for pharmaceutical manufacturers to withdraw their product from the usual wholesalers and work directly with the end customer, he said.
Usually, he said he orders two vials of tetanus vaccine, enough for approximately 40 doses, every other week.
When he called in an order to Aventis on Fe. 19, he was told he'd have to wait another week to receive the shipment.
Haberlan said physicians may exercise discretion in administering adult doses in non-emergency situations.
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