Travellers jetting off to exotic climes this winter face a scramble to get immunised against typhoid, because of a UK shortage of vaccine against the potentially fatal disease.
Immunisation against typhoid fever is usually provided free of charge on the NHS but many GP surgeries across the country say they have run out. A number of travel clinics, which charge for vaccinations, are in the same situation.
The shortage is the knock-on effect of a recall in October by Sanofi Pasteur MSD of 16 batches of its injectable typhoid vaccine Typhim Vi, equivalent to 88% of its stock. It warned that anyone vaccinated between 7 January 2011 and the recall could be affected, amounting to as many as 729,606 people, according to the Medicines and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA).
Despite the supply problem, the Health Protection Agency said fewer cases of typhoid had been recorded in the UK in 2012 so far than in any of the previous three years.
A spokesman for Sanofi Pasteur said: "Stocks of Typhim Vi are still in short supply and this may continue into the early part of 2013."
The shortage has been compounded by GlaxoSmithKline, another manufacturer of injectable typhoid vaccines, deciding last year to concentrate on making other products for global childhood vaccination programmes, which are rated as higher priorities by the World Health Organisation. As a result, GSK says its injectable typhoid vaccine, Typherix, will not be available until at least the second quarter of 2014.