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Supplies of a vital infant vaccine are back to normal levels at military clinics in Europe after a 2007 recall led providers to withhold booster shots to preserve supplies.

The Haemophilus influenza type b, or Hib, vaccine was rationed at civilian and military medical facilities after the drug company Merck and Co. announced a recall in late 2007.

This led the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to recommend providers suspend a booster shot at 12 or 15 months in order to ensure all babies received initial doses at the two, four and six-month mark.

The Hib strain of influenza can cause meningitis and other health problems in newborns.

While production of the Merck vaccine remains suspended, another company, Sanofi Pasteur, recently increased its production of Hib vaccine, bringing supply levels back to normal, according to a CDC fact sheet released June 26.

The U.S. Army’s Medical Materiel Center Europe, which provides medicine for all U.S. European Command medical providers, received word in late June that supplies would be back to normal, according to Maj. Michael Ronn, chief of the center’s clinical advisory division.

In order to avoid straining existing stocks, parents should wait to get their child the booster at their next checkup, military medical officials in Europe said last week.

"We don’t need everyone coming in at once because we won’t meet the need," Ronn said.

The Army will review immunization records for children coming in for routine care to determine if they require the booster shot, according to Col. Robert Smith of the Army’s Europe Regional Medical Command.

Hib was "a killer while I was in medical school," Smith said, but the vaccine’s widespread dispersal in the past 20 years largely eliminated the bug from the newborn population.

Before a vaccine was developed, Hib was the leading childhood cause of meningitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord membranes, among other maladies, Dr. John Bradley, infectious disease division head at the Children’s Hospital and Health Center in San Diego, said last year.

The CDC’s recommendations to concentrate existing supplies to the appropriate age groups by deferring the booster "really stretched out our supply and kept the patients at most risk protected," Smith said.

For more information, contact your local medical provider.


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