ATLANTA – More than a million doses of a common vaccine given to babies as young as 2 months were being recalled Wednesday because of contamination risks, but the top U.S. health official said it was not a health threat.
The recall is for 1.2 million doses of the vaccine for Hib, which protects against meningitis, pneumonia and other serious infections, and a combination vaccine for Hib and hepatitis B. The vaccine is recommended for all children under 5 and is usually given in a three-shot series, starting at 2 months old.
Drug maker Merck & Co., which announced the recall after testing this week showed a sterility problem in a Pennsylvania factory, said concerned parents should contact their child’s doctor.
“The potential for contamination of any individual vaccine is low,” said Merck spokeswoman Kelley Dougherty.
Dr. Julie Gerberding, head of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, echoed that in a news conference.
“This is not a health threat in the short run, but it is an inconvenience,” she said.
Health officials said they already are talking about prioritizing shots for American Indian and Alaska Native children, who are considered at higher risk for Hib-caused illnesses, said Dr. Anne Schuchat, director of the CDC’s National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases.
Health officials said they did not know how many of the 1.2 million doses were administered to children.
The recalled doses are considered potent, so children who got vaccine from the recalled lots will not have to be revaccinated, Schuchat said.
Parents will probably be concerned, CDC officials acknowledged. Should the vaccine later prove contaminated, health officials believe most children will experience, at worst, a skin irritation around the vaccination site. Problems could be worse for children with compromised immune systems.