1.2 million doses of child vaccine are recalled

DIGEST

December 13, 2007

ATLANTA -- More than a million doses of a common vaccine given to babies as young as 2 months were being recalled yesterday 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 age 5 and is usually given in a three-shot series, starting at 2 months.

Drug maker Merck & Co., which announced the recall after testing showed a sterilization 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 L. Gerberding, director of the federal 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.

Dougherty could not immediately say whether the contamination seen at the factory involves a virus or bacteria. She said that if someone were vaccinated with a contaminated shot, "there is a risk they could develop an infection." She did not provide further details.

The recall is likely to heighten a debate over childhood vaccines and their safety and whether too many are required. Some parents are distrustful and suspect some vaccines of being linked to autism, although scientific studies have not shown such a connection.

This week, New Jersey took a controversial step toward becoming the first state to require flu shots for preschoolers.

Associated Press

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