Sanofi Pasteur’s Pentaxim, a vaccine for infants against diphtheria/pertussis/tetanus (DPT), polio and meningitis, is in shortage in some parts of the nation, industry sources said.
Infants can still get Sanofi’s other DPT vaccine Tetraxim and meningitis vaccine separately. However, Sanofi’s supply of sufficient Tetraxim will be possible only from late November, raising concern that the shortage could affect a smooth operation of the National Immunization Program (NIP).
One doctor running a pediatric clinic in North Jeolla Province found that Pentaxim was out of stock. He asked for more supply of Pentaxim through a salesperson of Sanofi Pasteur, but the salesperson replied that it was impossible to get the vaccine until January.
“Sanofi’s salesperson said the company could not supply Pentaxim until January,” the doctor said. Infants need Pentaxim injections in three stages – when they are two months old, four months, and six months.
For those who have already had Pentaxim shots in the first or second stage, doctors can give Tetraxim and meningitis vaccine separately. However, Tetraxim supply is also in shortage, and physicians have to wait until late this month to get the vaccine sufficiently, the doctor added.
Infants who have not received any Pentaxim shot can get GSK’s Infanrix, which is a similar vaccine.
However, those who have been vaccinated by Pentaxim once cannot get Infanrix shot. Babies who need a second and third stage injection may not be able to get vaccinated in time if Pentaxim supply becomes difficult.
The doctor in North Jeolla Province noted that he had missed timely vaccinations against Japanese encephalitis, MMR, and hepatitis A because the vaccines were out of stock for a while in the past.
“As pharmaceutical firms withdrew from the local vaccine market and some drugmakers took the monopolistic positions, doctors cannot deal with a shortage in those vaccines,” the doctor said in frustration.
In response, Sanofi said the company has been stably supplying Pentaxim since it rolled out the product in the domestic market.
“We are making every effort to provide a continued supply. As vaccines are biologic drugs, however, it is difficult to keep up with an abrupt surge in demand. Their characteristics could affect the supply schedule,” the company said.
Sanofi increased the supply of Pentaxim this year, compared to last year. Still, there was a temporary delay in the supply and an imbalance between the demand and supply among some provinces, the company added.
“We have taken measures to make sure each client receives the proper amount of the vaccines without a problem,” it said.
Sanofi Pasteur has been the only drugmaker that sold Pentaxim, a pentavalent vaccine, since NIP included a pentavalent vaccine for infants in June 2017.
GSK won the regulatory approval for Infanrix-IPV-Hib in November last year and started the sale this September. However, Pentaxim and Infanrix cannot be cross-vaccinated.
GSK said it had secured a sufficient supply of Infanrix-IPV-Hib, adding that it would do its best to supply the vaccine to hospitals and clients.
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