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Vaccine Shortage Hits State

A nationwide vaccine shortage has led to fears of increases in some illnesses, including whooping cough, Oklahoma health officials say.

Vaccines for whooping cough, tetanus, the combination shot of measles, mumps and rubella; chicken pox and pneumonia are in short supply. Some drug companies have stopped producing vaccines, others are not producing enough.

With fewer children immunized against common conditions, the diseases are sure to spread, said Janice Sheehan, manager of communicable disease prevention at the state Health Department.

``It does worry me,'' she said.

The Health Department is giving six-month extensions for some of its student vaccine requirements because of the shortage, said Dorothy Cox, assistant director of immunization for the department.

Tulsa resident Carrie Williford has whooping cough, and her 7-month-old son, Damien Johnston, may have it, too. Because of the vaccine shortage, he was not given his full set of shots for the disease.

Also, the Tulsa City-County Health Department has so few tetanus shots left _ about 300 doses in the whole county _ that only infants and the injured can receive tetanus shots.

``We're almost to the point where we say, 'Let me see your wound,''' Sheehan said.

The tetanus bacteria lurks in pavement and soil, and enters the body through skin punctures, cuts and scrapes. It causes muscle spasms so severe that bones can be broken.

Babies used to receive a five-shot series of the combination diphtheria, whooping cough and tetanus vaccines at 2, 4 and 6 months plus two booster doses. To conserve the vaccines, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended that boosters be eliminated, said Dr. Stanley Grogg, who serves as president of the College of Osteopathic Pediatricians in Tulsa.

One or two doses might not be enough to protect children, Grogg said.

Damien Johnston was given a single whooping cough shot at 2 months. He developed gasping and a cough so strong it made him cry, his mother said.

Doctors were treating him for a whooping cough-like disease, although tests had not confirmed the diagnosis, Grogg said.

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