Doctors advised to defer booster shots of vaccine

Doctors should defer giving booster shots of a widely used childhood vaccine in the wake of a voluntary recall last week of 1.2 million doses by Merck & Co Inc, U.S. health authorities said on Wednesday.

Merck recalled its vaccine against Hib disease (Haemophilus influenzae type b) after quality-control checks found production equipment may not have been properly sterilized.

Hib disease used to be the leading cause of bacterial meningitis in children less than 5 years old, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC, in consultation with the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians, now recommends health care providers temporarily delay routine Hib vaccine booster doses typically given at age 12 and 15 months until the vaccine supply improves.

Children at high risk for Hib disease should continue to receive the booster dose. They include American Indian children, Alaska Native children and children with asplenia, sickle cell disease, HIV and other immunodeficiency conditions and certain cancers.

The CDC recommends that doctors keep track of which patients delayed a shot and bring them back once the supply improves.

Merck said last week it recalled 11 lots of PedvaxHIB vaccine and two lots of its Comvax vaccine due to lack of assurance of product sterility. Both recalled vaccines protect against Hib and other conditions. Comvax also prevents hepatitis B.

The vaccines were made in West Point, Pennsylvania, and distributed starting in April 2007. All but one lot was distributed in the United States, the company said.
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