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Vaccines out of stock

There is a massive shortage of vaccines in France, including BCG against tuberculosis, diptheria-tetanus-polio (DTP) and Hepatitis A and B, which are all out of stock, says Samantha David.

Pharmacies are either turning away patients, or offering to put them on waiting lists which they warn could be more than three months long. Many pharmacists say national stocks are so low they have no idea when they will next receive supplies, and doctors and medical staff cannot get booster shots for themselves.

DTP is required for all children, but parents are unable to buy the vaccine at pharmacies, which highlights a gap between the daily reality for the public and the ambitious theories of the government: what is the point of making 11 vaccinations obligatory if there are none available anyway?

Clearly there are serious public health concerns, but more worrying still, according to a survey by the Vaccine Confidence Project, which interviewed 66,000 people in 67 different countries, 41% of French people say they distrust vaccinations, compared with an average of 12% in other countries polled.

There are even several large anti-vaccination groups in France which actively lobby against vaccination programmes.

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One of the widest held beliefs is that the measles vaccine can cause autism. This theory has been discredited numerous times and the original "research" shown to be unscientific and totally false.

It is difficult to see however, how the government can restore trust in vaccinations and persuade parents to comply with their new requirements, when France ran out of key vaccines before Easter and the problem has still not been resolved.

We contacted Sanofi Pasteur, who supply these vaccines in France, as well as the Minister of Health who is ultimately responsible, but neither responded to our queries although their press officers both confirmed that France has run out of DTP vaccines and that the issue is "sensitive".

Earlier this year, both blamed the rupture of stock on the technical difficulties of producing DTP but commentators responded by noting that the more expensive and therefore profitable vaccines such as Gardasil (against HPV 16 and 18) are still available.

Various questions have been asked – is this the result of sheer incompetence on the part of the authorities, or a marking strategy on the part of the drugs company to raise prices?

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