* Boosters to resume in July when supply shortage eases
* Supply problems may have caused increased infections (Adds CDC, Merck comments, paragraphs 6, 11)
By Julie Steenhuysen
CHICAGO, June 25 (Reuters) - The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said on Thursday it plans to reinstate booster shoots of a vaccine that protects children against bacterial meningitis.
The CDC said in a statement it now believes manufacturers will have enough supply of the vaccine to resume giving a booster shot of HiB (Haemophilus influenza type b) to children aged 12 to 15 months.
Booster shots will resume on July 1.
Scarce supplies of the vaccine starting in 2007 prompted U.S. health authorities to recommend dropping the booster shot, which is typically given to children at 12 to 15 months who were not at high risk of infection.
The agency continued to recommend children be given the primary series of shots at age 2, 4, and 6 months.
“There has always been enough Hib-containing vaccine for all US children to receive the primary 3-dose vaccine series at 2, 4, and 6 months,” the CDC said in its weekly report on death and disease.
However, CDC said its data suggest some children did not get the third shot in the series and it may have caused an increase in infections in certain regions.
In January, the CDC noted a rise in illnesses among children in Minnesota, where five children became gravely ill with meningitis, pneumonia and other HiB-caused diseases, and one child died. Meningitis is especially risky because it can cause swelling of tissue around the brain and spinal cord.
The CDC said at the time the cases might have been related to vaccine supply issues.
Merck & Co Inc recalled its HiB vaccines in 2007 because production equipment may not have been properly sterilized.
Merck spokeswoman Amy Rose said in an e-mail the company is now working with regulatory authorities to make a limited supply of its PedvaxHIB vaccine available in the fourth quarter of 2009.
“Full availability of PedvaxHIB is expected in the first quarter of 2010,” she said.
The CDC said HiB vaccine made by Sanofi-Pasteur, the vaccines division of Sanofi-Aventis (SASY.PA), will increase enough starting in July to allow reinstatement of the HiB booster for children aged 12 to 15 months.
Short supplies will not allow a mass recall of older children who missed their booster to come back to get their shots, the CDC said. Instead, it recommends children be given the shot at their next routine checkup.
Before the introduction of the vaccine in the early 1990s, about 20,000 U.S. children would come down with illnesses caused by HiB bacteria a year. Vaccination has cut that by 99 percent, according to the CDC. (Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen; editing by Mohammad Zargham)