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Tetanus Vaccine Shortage Puts Health Officials on Alert

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"It is a severe shortage in that it clearly changes our practice," says Kathleen Neuzil, MD, MPH, assistant professor of medicine, University of Washington School of Medicine, in Seattle. "What we used to say was that every contact with the healthcare system should be a time to review and update immunization. This shortage is severe enough that ... we don't want to give routine boosters to people, which really is unprecedented in the United States."

Fortunately, the immunity provided by tetanus shots lasts a long time, so waiting another year if you're due for your booster now isn't really a big deal, says Neuzil, a member of the physician advisory board for the American College of Physicians-American Society of Internal Medicine Adult Immunization Initiative and a liaison to the CDC's vaccine committee on immunization practices.

Although doctors are being instructed to keep track of people whose boosters are being delayed, she says if yours is delayed, it's a good idea to remind your physician about it next year, just in case.

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