Hib infections on the rise due to vax shortage

Officials are reporting that the number of children infected with Hib, or Haemophilus influenzae type b, continue to rise due to a shortage of Merck's childhood vaccine. There have been at least ten reported cases so far: seven in Philadelphia, one in New Jersey and two in Oklahoma. Three Pennsylvania children have died from the infection this year.

Merck pulled 1.2 million doses of its vaccine from the market over contamination concerns in December of 2007. Sanofi Pasteur ramped up production of its Hib vaccine but could not produce enough to make up for the shortfall. Merck now says its expects to a pick-up in manufacturing by mid-to-late 2009, a spokeswoman tells the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Experts are also concerned about the small but rising number of parents who choose not to have their children immunized for fear of side effects or who believe the diseases have been eradicated. At least two of the recent Pennsylvania cases involved parents who declined the jab for religious reasons. Last year, Minnesota officials reported five independent cases of Hib, all of which involved children who had received none or only some of the necessary primary vaccinations.

- read the Philadelphia Inquirer article for more