Supplies of a popular combination vaccine for infants used to prevent five infectious diseases have run out in many Chinese cities. Authorities in Beijing are taking measures to get more.
The vaccine－a mixed product that vaccinates against five diseases－is the only such product available on the Chinese mainland, and is used for children younger than 18 months to prevent diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, polio and Hib, according to the China Food and Drug Administration.
Called Pentaxim, it is produced by French pharmaceutical company Sanofi.
While Pentaxim is generally approved for import, some recent batches failed to pass inspections by food and drug regulators and were barred from sale in the domestic market. Imports of the vaccine have been temporarily suspended, according to a statement by the Beijing Center for Disease Prevention and Control on Dec 7.
Pentaxim has been available in the Chinese market since May 2011, the CFDA said. It requires four injections to complete a full procedure－three before a child is 5 months old, and the final one at 18 months, it said.
Clinicians mix liquid and powdered parts of the product before each injection. All injections are identical.
Pentaxim is a Category 2 vaccine, which means it is designated for voluntary purchase rather than provided free to the public.
Several other vaccines can be used in combination as a substitute, including polio and diphtheria vaccines, which are Category 1 vaccines, the administration said earlier.
Yao Xiujun, a spokesman for the Beijing Health and Family Planning Commission, noted on Monday that Pentaxim has been in short supply in many parts of China, and health authorities in Beijing have placed an emergency order to serve 30,000 infants.
Vaccines that are in storage in Beijing will be used for children who have already begun the inoculation series, he said.
In a statement provided to China Daily on Monday, Sanofi said demand for the vaccine in China has been increasing at a rapid rate in recent years due to its safety and convenience, and that has contributed to supply shortages.
Eight batches of the product failed to pass inspection by Chinese authorities, which worsened the shortage, the company said. It added that it has been communicating with health authorities to address the problem.
Production of combination vaccines is more complicated than other vaccines, with a production cycle as long as 18 months to three years, the company said.
"Supplies of Pentaxim will remain short in the foreseeable future," it said.
All the company's vaccines available in the Chinese market are safe and effective, as they must pass inspections by drug authorities both at their point of origin and in China before they can circulate, the company said.