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Nonprofit offers short term-relief, but baby formula still in short supply

Updated June 11, 2022 - 1:25 pm

As production of infant formula ramps up once again to ease the nationwide shortage, Nevada agencies caution that grocery store shelves may still be understocked for weeks or months longer.

Abbott Laboratories announced last week that it will be continuing its production of popular formulas such as Similac after voluntarily recalling them because of the discovery of a deadly germ in the powder. But parents will have to wait for shelves to start filling up again.

According to a May 15 report from Bloomberg, Las Vegas had been hit the hardest in terms of the shortage, with more than 50 percent of formula out of stock across the Las Vegas Valley as of the time.

Abbott is speeding up production as much as possible, while keeping safety measures in place to produce high-quality formula, according to an Abbott spokesperson.

“We will ramp production as quickly as we can while meeting all requirements,” the spokesperson said. “We’re committed to safety and quality and will do everything we can to re-earn the trust parents, caregivers and health care providers have placed in us for 130 years.”

Abby Quinn, chief community relations officer at HELP of Southern Nevada, has seen the impact of the shortage firsthand — estimating that HELP received more than three times the average call frequency. But Quinn is still apprehensive about the production, fearing that it will not fill shelves fast enough.

“We feel like our clients might still be suffering from needing formula for the next couple of months. It might not be a quick fix. Our hope is that people who don’t need formula and have a couple of unopened cans will see what’s happening and realize we’re an agency that can take that from them.”

To help provide some immediate short-term relief for mothers and parents, HELP, which provides aid for families and people in Southern Nevada, held a baby formula and diaper drive on Saturday. Nestle NAN Pro infant and toddler formula were provided to about 450 families at Parkdale Recreation Center. The giveaway was made possible by a donation from GovPlanet, a government surplus company. Each family received three cans of toddler formula and two cans of infant formula. Diapers, bottles and wipes were also available.

Many mothers and parents require special formulas for their infants and toddlers, so much so that HELP has stockpiled them.

“A lot of our clients, it’s really not ideal necessarily, or sometimes they’re just not able to breastfeed, because they work a job where it’s not possible,” Quinn said.

Many of the parents who seek aid with HELP also use the Women, Infant and Children Program.

Eric Duran-Valle, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, said that Nevada WIC was happy about the Abbott facility’s reopening.

“Having this plant back online, in conjunction with the other facilities producing formula and other federal efforts, will hopefully bring an end to the shortage and provide some much-needed relief to parents nationwide,” he said in an email.

McKenna Ross is a corps member with Report for America, a national service program that places journalists into local newsrooms. Contact her at mross@reviewjournal.com. Follow @mckenna_ross_ on Twitter. Review-Journal intern Emerson Drewes can be reached at edrewes@reviewjournal.com or via Twitter @EmersonDrewes.

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