TOPEKA, Kan. (KSNT) — A nationwide baby formula shortage is prompting states across the U.S. to take action.
In Kansas, state leaders announced additional actions to address the shortage in Kansas.
Among those changes, the state health department, Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE), said it’s approved additional formula products for use by Kansas WIC families, and increased flexibility for access.
“KDHE is committed to ensuring infants in Kansas have access to formula. Since February, we have been working to do what is possible, within our authority, to provide relief for Kansans. We urge all impacted families to follow these recommendations and stay up-to-date with information to care for their family’s needs.”KDHE Secretary Janet Stanek
WIC is a federal program geared to benefit pregnant women and mothers of babies and children under five years of age.
The program usually only covers certain brands, though. For some grocers, this caused issues early on in the shortage, after the country’s largest baby formula provider, Abbott Laboratories, shut down.
“It caused a lot of frustration, because, especially earlier on in the shortage, there were a lot of WIC mothers that had certain kinds that they could get per their WIC allowance. We wouldn’t have that kind. We’d have another kind, but they couldn’t get it, because it wasn’t included in their particular WIC program,” said Chris Grant, an Evening Supervisor at Seabrook Apple Market, a small retailer in Topeka.
Grant said the market’s partnership with WIC usually requires them to have a certain amount of formula in stock.
However, the shortage has led to a slow down on the manufacturing side, driving up demand for other brands struggling to meet consumer needs as well.
ABBOTT LABS RE-OPENING
Feds say they’re working overtime with manufacturers to address the issue.
The FDA reached an agreement with Abbott Labs to re-open. However, some Republican U.S. Senators say they haven’t moved fast enough.
Kansas Senator Roger Marshall sent a letter on Wednesday to the Food and Drug Administration urging them to speed up the process.
“We’ve been talking with this Abbott Laboratories on a daily basis for several weeks,” Marshall told Kansas Capitol Bureau in an interview. “They say they’ve done everything that Joe Biden’s FDA has asked them to do, but yet FDA won’t clear them. So, our letter is holding FDA accountable.”
On Thursday, the head of the FDA told lawmakers the lab could re-open as soon as next week.
Even after production starts back up, Abbott has said it could take about two months until the new formula begins arriving in stores.
In the meantime, parents will have to deal with limited options until stores can re-stock shelves.
Grant told the Kansas Capitol Bureau that while the expansion in the product list for WIC could help, their hands are tied until they’re able to get products into their store.
He said they’ve put in requests every week that come back “out-of-stock” or “back-ordered.”
“Hopefully, the company will get caught back up,” Grant said. “Unfortunately, until we can get another shipment in, this is the reality that parents are going to be facing.”
Matt Lara, a spokesman for KDHE, said, in regard to the WIC program, the federal government has directed the state to act accordingly.
“The directive from the feds that the state has received on this program is to continue to monitor the shortage situation and respond appropriately. Do not hesitate to think about and consider additional ways to alleviate the shortage situation.“Matt Lara, KDHE Spokesperson
While there has been no plans to expand eligibility for the program yet, KDHE has implemented a series of waivers to provide the maximum flexibility in making more infant formula products — including Ready to Feed (RTF) formula.
The waivers increase the number of formula brands and forms (powder and ready-to-feed) that WIC participants can purchase.
There’s also been an increase in the number of substitutions local health departments and health agencies can provide to mothers in need.
“Local WIC Programs can often assist Kansas families in where to locate infant formula, especially some of the harder to find formulas such as prescription formulas,” Lara said.
The Kelly Administration, including KDHE, recommends the following to families struggling to find the formula they need to feed their child:
- Call your OBGYN or pediatrician to see if they can provide any resources to access formula or for suggestions on an alternative formula to meet their infant’s health needs.
- Switch to another brand or type of formula that is available if recommended by the infant’s physician.
- Contact their local WIC agency to see if the infant is eligible for WIC benefits.
- Contact smaller stores and drugstores that carry formula to see if they have products in stock.
- Kansas WIC families should contact their local health department or health agency for assistance in receiving substitute products when needed.