Amid a rise of measles patients, clinics are suffering a shortage of MMR (measles, mumps, and rubella) vaccines. The health authorities said they were going all out to ensure a smooth supply of the vaccines by shortening the time for the state licensing of vaccines and advancing market releases.
The Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said 40 patients have been confirmed with measles from December to January in many parts of the country, including Daegu and Gyeongsan in North Gyeongsang Province, Ansan in Gyeonggi Province, Incheon, and Seoul.
Most of the patients were infants who have not completed the vaccinations or people in their 20s and 30s who have grown up in an era without the policy of the two-time doses. Their antibodies have not formed sufficiently, experts said.
The authorities recommend that infants and toddlers living in a region where measles broke out should advance the timing of vaccination earlier than the prescribed period. Adults planning to travel overseas should finish the two-time vaccination four to six weeks before leaving the country.
As more people try to receive MMR vaccinations belatedly, clinics of internal medicine and family medicine are reporting a shortage of MMR vaccines.
An official at the KCDC’s vaccination management division said the demands for MMR vaccines have surged since Jan. 21.
“Last year, about 100,000 doses of MMR vaccines were released a month. Last month, however, 250,000-270,000 doses were distributed,” the official said. “As measles cases continued, not only young children who were not vaccinated but guardians, medical professionals, and overseas travelers sought to get vaccinated at internal medicine and family medicine clinics where MMR vaccines were rarely treated.”
The official further explained that pediatric departments had not suffered MMR vaccine shortages because they have steadily provided MMR vaccines.
The KCDC additionally released 290,000 doses of MMR vaccines on Feb. 7, the official said. “We are closely working with vaccine distributors such as SK Chemical and Kwangdong Pharmaceutical to ensure the vaccine supply. By next week, these vaccines will reach most of the medical institutions,” he added.
GSK Korea, which imports MMR vaccines, said it was also expanding the supply to meet the local demand.
“We have received three to four times more of the supply request, compared to normal days. We have run out all of the state-authorized MMR vaccines. Also, additional products from the headquarters are under the government review,” a GSK official said. “We expect to release the additional products by mid-February. Our company is doing its best to prevent a further spread of measles.”
The official added that GSK Korea sought the Ministry of Food and Drug Safety’s cooperation to allow priority to MMR vaccines to be reviewed faster, in preparation for the Lunar New Year holiday when many Koreans migrate to visit extended families.
Last year, GSK Korea and MSD Korea imported and supplied 1.08 million doses of MMR vaccines to Korea.