Rabies vaccine supply should stabilize through winter, CDC says

As the approaching winter causes a lull in the demand for rabies vaccine, now may be a good time to get rabies vaccine for you and your staff.

The rabies vaccine supply has been very limited this year, and the pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) has been difficult if not impossible to come by. Even many veterinary colleges have been unable to vaccinate their first year students. However, the vaccine is now available directly through Novartis, on a case by case basis, officials say.

Demand for the post-exposure vaccine has been about 1,500 doses per day, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. That demand, coupled with the fact that only one of the two manufacturers of the vaccine is currently producing the vaccine, led to the limited supply situation.

The CDC stops short of calling it a shortage, because they say everyone who has needed the vaccine has received it.

“No human cases have occurred due to the supply interruptions,” said Charles Rupprecht, VMD, MS, PhD, head of the CDC Rabies Program.

Last year, Texas had the highest number of confirmed animal rabies cases at 969. Texas Department of State Health Services epidemiologist Eric Funken, DVM, MPAff, said the PrEP and PEP vaccines are now available directly through the manufacturer. However, he cautions that the situation is fluid and his department is constantly getting updates from the CDC.

“This is the way this has gone all summer,” Fonken said. “In five minutes it could all change.”

Rupprecht said although the supply interruption will continue well into next year, the supply should be more stable in the coming months. Demand for the vaccine is dropping now that we are heading into the colder time of the year, so veterinarians who want to get the vaccine should do so now, Rupprecht said.

“This would be a time to consider it, during the hiatus from now through winter,” he said. “This is the best time because the national needs are at their lowest.”

Schools’ needs should be met, too

Radford G. Davis, DVM, MPH, DACVPM, Associate Professor of Public Health at Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine said his school, like many others, has not had access to the vaccine.

“About 40 percent of the veterinary schools still haven’t been able to vaccinate their first year students,” he said. “Of the 123 coming into [Iowa State’s] class this year, 30 of them were vaccinated.”

In a conference call Oct. 15 among the CDC, AAVMC and 17 veterinary medical schools, Rupprecht said the colleges should have their pre-exposure vaccine in the next few weeks.

“[School officials] who are dutiful and follow through on the standard operating procedures should receive the biologicals,” he said.