Vaccine supplies for infants could run out again — Govt
The Department of Health has blamed a shortage of crucial vaccines for infants on “challenges” faced by countries all over the world — and has warned that supplies could run out again.
As reported by The Royal Gazette last week, doctors have been telling patients they are out of supplies of a number of different jabs for infants, including those that prevent meningitis, chickenpox, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
The Department of Health (DoH) said yesterday that a shipment of the Varicella vaccine for chickenpox should arrive by the end of the month and that it was still “actively seeking confirmation of a shipment date” for Pentaxim, which is given at two, four, six and 18 months and protects against Hemophilus influenza B (Hib) meningitis, diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio.
Paediatricians have raised concerns about the latest shortage, warning of the health risks of having a section of the population more susceptible to potentially dangerous diseases.
A Department spokeswoman told this newspaper there was a shortage of a “few vaccines”. But she added: “Existing high levels of immunisation coverage adds a level of protection for delays in vaccination.”
The spokeswoman said: “Bermuda has a long and successful history for immunisations given to children. On average 93 percent to 98 percent of all children under the age of two are vaccinated against the most serious childhood illnesses.”
The Island obtains many of its vaccines at a “cost-effective price” through the Pan American Health Organization, according to the spokeswoman.
“The planning and procurement of vaccines is an ongoing activity, many aspects of which involve challenges faced by all jurisdictions in procurement of supplies,” she added.
“These may be related to the manufacturer, global demands, international transportation or changes in recommendations for administration of vaccines.
“The Department of Health regularly communicates actual and potential problems related to vaccines to the healthcare professionals involved in vaccine administration.
“Physician offices are informed of anticipated shortages, as well as the reasons for these shortages, and it is anticipated that this information will allow health professionals to plan accordingly.
“The DoH and all participants consider infants a priority for protecting the community against vaccine preventable diseases. It is through this commitment that the health of all children in Bermuda has benefited.
“Procurement of vaccines from international sources will remain a dynamic and not entirely predictable undertaking. Cooperation and communication between the DoH and healthcare providers is essential throughout this process.”
Paediatrician Sylvanus Nawab, from Edgewood surgery, has suggested the Island needs a centralised, computerised vaccine registry programme to allow the Department to accurately forecast how many vaccines are needed and place orders in advance.
The Registry General keeps a record of how many babies are born in Bermuda each year, with 648 babies born in 2012, compared to 821 in 2008.