The vaccine that protects children against measles, mumps and rubella is in short supply. The MMR vaccine joins a growing list of scarce drugs, with shortfalls caused by production problems, fewer drugmakers and pharmaceutical companies choosing to stop making some products.
The situation is so bad that 8 of the 11 recommended childhood vaccines are in short supply, including tetanus, diphtheria and a pneumococcal vaccine used to prevent bacterial meningitis. Another Merck vaccine, one that prevents chicken pox, is also in short supply. Because there are no stockpiles of chickenpox vaccine, health officials will meet to consider whether to change chickenpox vaccination recommendations in an effort to conserve the remaining supply.
Even though Merck is producing some MMR vaccine, supply has not kept up with demand in a nation that uses 1.8 million doses a month. In October and November, the average delivery of the MMR vaccine fell 61% below national demand, according to the Centers for Disease Control, which asked Merck to supplement production by taking 700,000 doses from a stockpile of 3.1 million doses.