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Will there be enough yellow fever vaccine if Brazil’s epidemic spreads?
Doses of the only yellow fever vaccine licensed in the United States, YF-VAX, could run out as early as mid-2017, according to the CDC.
"We are hoping that the plan we have in place will help extend the supply at long as possible," said Tom Skinner, a spokesperson for the CDC.
The shortage is linked to manufacturing programs at a Sanofi Pasteur plant. The company had planned to transition the production of YF-VAX to a new facility that won't open until 2018, but during the process of the transition a large quantity of the vaccine was lost. The company was able to produce additional doses in late 2016 to extend the supply, but that supply will likely be depleted soon.
In response to the potential shortage, the FDA authorized an Expanded Access Investigational New Drug protocol in October of 2016 that would allow the distribution of another vaccine, Sanofi Pasteur’s Stamaril, until production of the FDA-approved vaccine can resume.
However, according to a recent statement released by the CDC, 250 U.S. clinics have been identified to distribute Stamaril, a much lower figure than the 4,000 sites that distribute YF-VAX.
"I think at the end of the day, we just want people to make sure they plan ahead," Skinner said.
The CDC plans to release a map that shows prospective travelers where Stamaril can be found, at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/yellow-fever-vaccination-clinics/search. Skinner said the 250 clinics are currently at various stages of enrollment to distribute Stamaril.
According to him, travelers who are unable to get the vaccine, may need to consider changing their travel plans.
"This is a very important vaccine to get for those people who are recommended to get it," he said, adding that some countries require travelers to be vaccinated before they can enter the country.
Yellow fever is a mosquito-borne virus found in South America and Africa. According to the CDC it can lead to serious illness in about 15% of those who are infected, resulting in bleeding, shock, organ failure or death.
In April, the Brazilian Ministry of Health reported an ongoing outbreak of yellow fever. Authorities have recommended that anyone traveling to certain areas of the country, including the states of Espirito Santo, Rio de Janeiro, most of São Paulo, and some of Bahia should be vaccinated.
Production of YF-VAX is not expected to resume until the new Sanofi Pasteur plant opens in 2018.
Updates on the status of the shortage is available at the CDC's Travelers' Health website, https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/.