MINNEAPOLIS (AP) -- In Minnesota, parents, kids and health care providers are feeling the effects of one of the worst childhood vaccine shortages ever, experts say.
Five vaccines used to protect against eight childhood diseases are in short supply, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Clinics throughout the state have long callback lists of children who have missed one or more of the shots that protect against measles, mumps, rubella, tetanus, diphtheria, whooping cough, chickenpox and pneumococcal bacteria, which causes strep throat, pneumonia and ear infections.
"Not to my knowledge have we ever been this short of so many vaccines," said Dr. Keith Powell, a spokesman for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "Something needs to be done at a national level to make sure this doesn't happen again. This is very much a public health concern, if not crisis."
Powell and other health care professionals worry that if the shortage isn't resolved soon, many children may never get caught up on their shots. If that happens, experts said, these diseases could start making children sick again.
"If it becomes a longer-term issue, potentially there could be lower vaccination rates and then there could be more outbreaks," said Dr. Jamie Peters, former president of the Minnesota Academy of Family Physicians. "These are not just diseases from the past. They're still around."
The shortages surfaced over the past year because vaccine manufacturers had production problems and a large tetanus vaccine maker ceased production, said Kristen Ehresmann, the Minnesota Health Department section chief for immunizations, tuberculosis and international health.
Last fall, there wasn't enough tetanus vaccine to produce the combined diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis vaccine. Nor was there enough tetanus booster vaccine for older children and adults.
Ehresmann said the vaccine disruptions caused such problems at clinics in Minnesota that the department set up a vaccine hot line.
"We got to the point where we were just inundated with calls," Ehresmann said. Yet health officials could do little to help, other than to tell clinics to follow CDC recommendations.
The CDC said clinics nationwide should create callback lists to ensure that kids get their missed shots when vaccines arrive. The agency also said clinics should delay certain shots in some childhood vaccination series.
The severity of the shortage varies at Minnesota clinics. Some have run short of the chickenpox vaccine. Others are running low on all five childhood vaccines.
"You expect this from a third world country, but the United States, never. This is crazy, " said Linda Zarns, nurse manager at Smiley's Clinic in Minneapolis.
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