CDC prepares for shortage following discontinuation of tetanus vaccine

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is calling on doctors to conserve supplies of a specific tetanus vaccine due to concerns of a potential shortage this year.

The CDC is now recommending that doctors transition from using the Td vaccine, which protects against tetanus and diphtheria, to administering the Tdap vaccine whenever possible. The Tdap vaccine provides broader protection as it also guards against pertussis, commonly known as “whooping cough.”

MassBiologics, a nonprofit vaccinemaker, has decided to halt the production of its Td vaccine, known as TdVax. This decision poses a risk of shortage for this year.

According to the CDC, the supply of the vaccine is expected to deplete as early as this summer. Grifols, the distributor of the vaccine, informed a panel of vaccine advisers about the anticipated shortage.

According to Jeanne Santoli from the CDC’s Immunization Services Division, the availability of the product will be limited to the month of June. However, it is important to note that it will not be available after this period.

Why did MassBiologics stop making TdVax?

The use of the Td vaccine has decreased in recent decades, as more doctors have transitioned to stocking the newer but often more expensive Tdap vaccines available in the market.

According to Sarah Wiley, a representative from MassBiologics, the demand for TdVax has decreased due to the availability of similar vaccines.

According to Wiley, the company’s decision to cease production of the shots was not influenced by the previous supply disruption of TdVax last year, which occurred when the company faced scrutiny from the Food and Drug Administration over certain lots they had manufactured.

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Doctors typically administer tetanus shots as a booster dose every 10 years. However, in cases of severe or dirty wounds and burns that can potentially introduce tetanus bacteria into the body, it is advisable for doctors to administer the shots earlier.

Grifols marketed TdVax as a viable option for doctors who are treating patients with wounds when Tdap is not required. The company emphasized that the shot provides exactly what patients need and does not include any unnecessary components.

Sanofi used to produce a higher-dose version of the vaccine that provided protection against diphtheria and tetanus. However, the company discontinued the production of this DT shot in 2020 and depleted its remaining supply by the end of 2022, according to the CDC.

What alternatives are available for tetanus shots?

According to the CDC, there is a small group of individuals who cannot receive the Tdap vaccine as their tetanus booster due to a rare risk of developing encephalopathy, a type of brain damage, from the pertussis component of the vaccine.

If someone develops encephalopathy after receiving a vaccine, they are advised to refrain from receiving any further pertussis shots. In such cases, getting a tetanus booster becomes their only viable alternative.

According to the agency’s guidance, the preservation of the limited supply of Td vaccine is necessary for individuals who cannot receive pertussis-containing vaccines due to contraindications.

Sanofi has announced plans to increase its supply of Tenivac, the sole remaining Td vaccine accessible to patients in the United States. Despite this effort, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) predicts that it may not be sufficient to alleviate the restricted availability of tetanus and diphtheria-only shots in the market.

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Sanofi, a leading pharmaceutical company, has acknowledged that it is taking measures to increase its stock of Td vaccine in the United States. Although they have not disclosed the exact figures, it is clear that they are actively addressing the supply shortage. In order to manage this gap, both public and private sector orders are subject to restrictions, as informed by the CDC.

According to a spokesperson from Sanofi, Tenivac, a vaccine for tetanus and diphtheria, may see an increase in demand due to the discontinuation of production by one of its suppliers. This means that more healthcare providers might be ordering the vaccine in the near future.

What is tetanus?

Tetanus, a bacterial infection, is primarily caused by the bacteria Clostridium tetani, which is commonly found in the soil. The spores of this bacteria are highly resilient and can be challenging to eliminate even with heat and disinfectants.

The initial indication of a tetanus infection often manifests as “lockjaw,” where the muscles contract and become painful due to the toxins produced by the bacteria attacking the brain and nervous system. It can take survivors several months to fully recover from the infection.

The number of tetanus cases has significantly decreased over the years, with only a few dozen reported annually. This decline can be attributed, at least in part, to the widespread use of vaccines, which have successfully reduced the previously high rates of this potentially fatal infection during the early 20th century.

According to the latest data from the CDC, there have been only 15 reported cases of the infection in 2023, and 28 cases in 2022.

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According to the CDC, the vaccination rate for one of the tetanus vaccines among kindergarteners nationwide was estimated to be 92.7% for the 2022 to 2023 school year. In 2022, about 64.2% of adults reported receiving their Td or Tdap shots.

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