Local News

Colleges Waiving Immunization Requirements Due To Shortage

Posted April 22, 2002

— For decades, routine childhood vaccinations have been successful in controlling infectious diseases in the United States. Now, many pediatricians cannot get enough of the vaccinations to immunize their young patients.

Doctors across the nation are running low on

Prevnar

, which prevents meningitis and bacterial pneumonia, and

DTaP

, which protects against diphtheria, tetanus and the whooping cough.

The

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

recommends that booster shots be deferred and that doses be reduced until supplies are adequate.

However, some teenagers need these vaccinations to enroll in college. Due to the shortage, many universities are waiving the requirement, worrying some parents.

North Carolina State University is waiving the tetanus shot requirement, but many parents and high school seniors do not know that when they are going over the college application forms.

"It's not something I worry excessively about, but it's a concern because tetanus can be a fatal disease and you can contract it through cuts or sores," said Sharon Bledsoe.

Bledsoe's son, Kenny, is planning to start school at N.C. State this fall. Last month, they noticed paperwork that instructed Kenny to make sure his shots were up to date, including tetanus.

"I sent him to the family doctor to get his immunization updated and he was told he couldn't get the tetanus shot," Bledsoe said. "That was last month, in March, and for a while there I was a little bit worried. Don't tell me my son can't go to college because he can't get a tetanus shot."

Most people get a primary dose of tetanus as child that covers them for years. Due to the nationwide shortage, colleges are waiving the booster dose that everyone is supposed to get every ten years. However, there are exceptions.

"If a student is enrolling in a college and they do not have their immunization record, then they are recommended to start the primary series which, for them, would be three doses of tetanus," said Laura Leonard of the N.C. Immunization Branch.

In addition to college students with no record of ever getting the shot, other special groups can get the vaccine.

"High-risk individuals, like pregnant women, those receiving the primary series, and if it's needed, for wound management," Leonard said.

The tetanus vaccine is in short supply because one of the two manufacturers stopped producing it last May. It takes nearly a year to produce a tetanus vaccine, so the shortage is expected to last until the end of this year.

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