Despite Hepatitis A Shortage, California Health Officials Press On
A national shortage of the hepatitis A vaccine is hampering California’s efforts to prevent further spread of the illness which has already killed 20 people and sickened more than 600 in San Diego, Los Angeles and Santa Cruz counties.
San Diego County, battling a deadly outbreak of hepatitis A, is postponing an outreach campaign to provide the second of two inoculations against the contagious liver disease until a national shortage of the vaccine is resolved, the county’s chief public health officer said.
“Our goal is to get that vaccine in as many arms as possible for that first dose,” said Dr. Wilma Wooten, who is leading the fight against an epidemic that has ravaged unsanitary homeless encampments in San Diego County for the past year, sickening 544 people and killing 20 of them as of Monday.
Demand for the two vaccines that protect against hepatitis A have skyrocketed in the state. Health officials are recommending them, not only for the homeless population, but also for police officers, nurses and other personnel who regularly come in contact with the transient community. In addition, L.A. County is now witnessing an explosion in hepatitis A cases among members of its LGBT community.
California Gov. Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in an effort to increase the supply of hepatitis A vaccine’s last month. But a spokesman for manufacturer GlaxoSmithKline said there is only so much that can be done in light of the increased demand.
“It’s unprecedented, and it’s very large what’s happening,” said Robin Gaitens, a spokeswoman for the company. GlaxoSmithKline only recently received a shipment of prefilled syringes and has a “limited supply of vials in stock,” she said.
“We will continue to work with CDC, the California Department of Public Health, which is coordinating vaccine orders and distribution on behalf of the counties, and our private customers in California to help address the needs in the state,” Gaitens added.
Read more about the vaccine shortage here.