Shortage of human rabies vaccine nears, CDC warns

Agency asks DVMs to educate the public concerning ways to avoid exposure

Published: August 27, 2008

Atlanta — The supply of human rabies vaccine is dwindling, prompting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to put a lock on its distribution until supply levels are restored. 

To conserve limited resources, distribution of vaccine for pre-exposure prophylaxis now requires approval by state and federal authorities. Priority will be given to those with occupational rabies exposure risk, such as veterinary staff, animal-control officers and wildlife workers. The agency asks that vaccine administration be delayed until animal rabies testing or clinical observation is completed.

The shortage stems from a higher-than-expected use of Novartis' RabAvert rabies vaccine, officials say. In addition, Sanofi Pasteur recently announced the unavailability of IMOVAX until at least late September. CDC asks health-care providers and authorities to be conservative when it comes to the vaccine’s administration.

“Judicious and appropriate use of rabies vaccines is crucial to avert a situation in which persons exposed to rabies are put at increased risk due to depleted vaccine supplies,” agency officials say.

In the meantime, CDC encourages veterinarians and other health professionals to educate the public concerning precautions to avoid rabies exposure and action to take if exposure occurs. These safeguards include vaccinating pets and livestock that have close contact with humans, avoiding stray and wild animals and safely detaining biting animals.

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