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Health Update

April 25, 2001 3 min read

Facing Vaccine Shortage, Colo. Waives Tetanus Boosters

Responding to a nationwide shortage of tetanus vaccine, the Colorado Board of Health has waived a state requirement that all children receive booster shots for the disease before they start school.

The board approved the temporary suspension in a late-afternoon conference call on April 12 at the recommendation of Dr. Richard Hoffman, the state’s chief medical officer and state epidemiologist, who said there was concern that the vaccine shortage might prevent some children from entering school.

Dr. Hoffman suggested that the remaining supplies of DtaP vaccine be used for the three initial vaccinations given to children from 2 to 6 months old. The vaccine protects children from diphtheria and pertussis, also known as whooping cough, and from contracting tetanus through open wounds.

“Parents of children entering school may be concerned about their children not receiving their fourth and fifth doses, but if those children contract whooping cough, the likelihood is that disease will not be nearly as severe as it is for infants,” Dr. Hoffman said. “Also, when more of the vaccine becomes available and the suspension is lifted, parents should make certain their children receive these booster shots.”

Dr. Hoffman said the suspension of booster shots would be in place as long as the national shortage of the tetanus vaccine continued. That is expected to be another 12 to 18 months.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, based in Atlanta, first warned of a temporary shortage of the tetanus and diphtheria vaccines last November as manufacturers Wyeth Lederle of Pearl River, N.Y., and Aventis Pasteur of Swiftware, Pa., cut production. The shortage was expected to end early this year, but Wyeth Lederle announced in January it would stop producing tetanus vaccines altogether.

Aventis Pasteur and Glaxo SmithKline of Philadelphia are the nation’s remaining producers of tetanus vaccine.

As a result, the CDC recommended that clinics and hospitals give priority to individuals traveling to countries where the risk of contracting diphtheria is high and to people at risk of contracting tetanus through open wounds.

“At the bottom of the list of priorities are booster doses,” said Lynn Zanardi, a medical epidemiologist with the CDC’s National Immunization Program. “That’s not ideal, but tetanus is not contagious, so the chances of contracting it are low. Also, people getting boosters probably already have some degree of immunity.”

Meals Programs: School meals programs aimed at improving the diets of millions of U.S. children yielded mixed results in the 1990s, according to a recent research report.

For More Information

Read the policy brief, “Food for Thought: Children’s Diets in the 1990s,” from Mathematica Policy Research Inc. (Requires Adobe’s Acrobat Reader.)

The National School Lunch Program and the School Breakfast Program—which combined serve nearly 33 million children—appeared to have a positive effect on children’s diets in the past decade, according to the findings from Mathematica Policy Research Inc., a nonprofit research firm in Princeton, N.J. Participants in the programs had more milk, fruit, vegetables, and important vitamins and minerals in their diets than children who didn’t eat school meals. They also consumed less added sugars.

But the researchers also discovered a possible downside to the school lunch program: higher intakes of fat, saturated fat, and sodium. Based on data from 1994 to 1996, children who ate a school lunch received 15 percent of their lunch calories from saturated fat and 13 percent from added sugars, according to the study. Those who didn’t eat a school lunch received 11 percent of their calories in that meal from saturated fat, but 23 percent from added sugars.

More recent evidence, however, suggests the fat content of school meals has fallen since the mid- 1990s, said Philip Gleason, a senior researcher at Mathematica and the lead author of the report, which reviewed the eating habits of more than 5,000 children ages 6 to 18.

The study also found that most children failed to eat the recommended number of daily servings from the five major food groups. For example, only one-third met the recommendation for fruit intake, while 45 percent consumed the recommended daily portion of vegetables.

—Darcia Harris Bowman

A version of this article appeared in the April 25, 2001 edition of Education Week as Health Update