During a hepatitis A emergency, there's a nationwide shortage of vaccine

Story highlights

  • A national shortage of Hepatitis A vaccine is hindering efforts to combat outbreaks
  • CDC is working with state and local agencies to prioritize at-risk populations

(CNN)The battle against hepatitis A outbreaks across the US is being stymied by a national shortage of the vaccine needed to combat it.

"Current supply is not sufficient to support demand for vaccine," the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said in a written statement.
    Southeast Michigan has seen 495 cases of hepatitis A and 19 deaths, mostly in Macomb and Wayne counties and in Detroit. The outbreak began in August 2016, and after a drop off during the winter, has been climbing since February of this year, said Michigan Department of Health and Human Services spokesperson Angela Minicuci.
    "We have a limited supply of vaccine," Minicuci said, "so we are prioritizing delivery to high-risk populations."
    In California an outbreak of the virus has sickened at least 644 people and claimed 21 lives, mostly in the cities of San Diego, Santa Cruz and Los Angeles, according to the CDC.
    Persons infected with the virus there have also spread it to Arizona, Utah and Colorado, said Dr. Wilma Wooten, public health director at San Diego's Health and Human Services Agency.
    To manage the current shortage, the CDC said, staff have been working closely with public health officials to target vaccinations toward at-risk populations, as well as coordinating with vaccine manufacturers "to monitor and manage public and private vaccine orders to make the best use of supplies ... during this period of unexpected increased demand."

    An unexpected demand

    "It's unprecedented what we are seeing out of California and other parts of the country," GlaxoSmithKline spokeswoman Robin Gaitens said. "The shortage is simply an issue of supply and demand."
    Outbreaks of hepatitis A are normally small; rates have declined 95% since the vaccine became available in 1995. GlaxoSmithKline and Merck are the only companies approved by the Food and Drug Administration to sell a Hepatitis A adult or pediatric vaccine in the US.