The provision of vaccines is guaranteed
"The population in Germany is well supplied with vaccines." – This is the assessment of the current availability of vaccines by Professor Klaus Cichutek, president of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut.
"As a matter of course, the provision of vaccines must be guaranteed for the population, since gaps in the vaccination status may lead to insufficient immune protection which can be dangerous", says Professor Cichutek. Although shortages have occurred in the supply of vaccines temporarily, the provision is guar-anteed from the medical point of view. That way, parents can rely on a guaranteed basic immunisation of infants and young children.
Since October 2015, it has been the role of the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut, Federal Institute for Vaccines and Biomedicines to inform both the general public and health care professionals on supply constraints of vaccines on its homepage in a timely manner. Thus, the institute supports the information flow among all persons involved with regard to the supply situation.
In its list of supply constraints of human vaccines, the PEI provides information on the time when the availability of a product can be expected again and on alternative vaccines. If no information concerning this is available, the PEI contacts the Ständige Impfkommission (German Standing Vaccination Committee, STIKO) at the Robert Koch-Institute requesting for a recommendation of action of which it provides a link. The Paul-Ehrlich-Institut does not provide any details as to where the vaccines can be purchased on the German market, since it does currently not follow up the local vaccine distribution. It may be possible that a vaccine is not present in individual pharmacies or regions, though, in principle, available in Germany.
All marketing authorisation holders of vaccines in Germany have signed a binding declaration to the PEI that they will report any delivery shortages if it is foreseeable that no further deliveries can be made from their warehouses within 14 days. Such a report does not automatically constitute a supply constraint, since at that time, supplies of the vaccine concerned are still available in the delivery chain.
"So far, this binding declaration has always provided us with a continued and timely report on the risk of supply shortages on the part of the vaccine manufacturers so that preventive action could be taken," said Professor Isabelle Bekeredjian-Ding, the head of Division 1 "Microbiology" who is responsible for the subject of supply constraints at the Paul-Ehrlich-Institut.
Tetravalent vaccines against diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough) and polio mentioned in the press release by the Medical Association of the land (federal German state) of Hesse have repeatedly been affected by delivery shortages in the past few months. There has not been a risk to the health of persons willing to receive a vaccination resulting from this at any time. Alternative vaccines of this type were usually available. The vaccines mentioned here primarily serve to perform booster vaccinations which can be postponed by several months without any problems. In the case of polio, for instance, the STIKO has for some years recommended a single booster vaccination only (see page 342 of the current STIKO-Empfehlungen (STIKO Recommendations). The combination vaccine against diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis has always been available. Contrary to the information presented in the press release, there have been supply constraints for vaccines against the measles, mumps, rubella (German measles), and the chickenpox in the past year, however, not over a period of several months but only during a one-off period of four weeks.
The manufacture of vaccines is complex and time-consuming, especially since these products require various quality control steps, before they can be marketed. This process can take between a few months and up to two years.