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Merck reports HepB vaccine shortage; GSK vaccine can be used instead :

July 21, 2017

Pediatric hepatitis B vaccine Recombivax HB will not be available from Merck until early 2018, according to the manufacturer.

In a letter to providers, Merck said demand around the world and manufacturing process updates caused the shortage of Recombivax HB in both pediatric and adult formulations.

However, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) has an adequate supply of Engerix-B hepatitis B vaccine to make up for the shortage, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The two monovalent vaccines are interchangeable.

“They can be used for the birth dose or any subsequent dose to finish the series. If you start with one, you can finish the series with the other,” said Scot B. Moore, M.D., FAAP, AAP Committee on Practice and Ambulatory Medicine liaison to the AAP Committee on Infectious Diseases.

Hepatitis B is a liver infection transmitted through blood or body fluids that can be passed from a mother to her baby. The CDC estimates 90% of infected infants develop chronic infection.

The CDC and Academy recommend routine vaccination against hepatitis B starting within 24 hours of birth for all healthy newborns with a birth weight of at least 2,000 grams, followed by doses at 1-2 months and 6-18 months.

Pediatricians and hospitals should talk to their supplier or ordering group to determine if they need to switch vaccines. Doctors may not have a choice between vials or syringes during the shortage.

“I think it would be good for providers to check with their local obstetric unit to make sure they’re aware this may be a problem and that they are ordering enough GSK hepatitis B vaccine so there’s not a lapse in coverage,” Dr. Moore said.

In addition, providers experiencing a delay in obtaining more vaccine should talk to their health organizations and payers about modifying vaccine benchmarks in their health care quality measure programs.

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