By Ammie Ruddle
Like much of the nation, Pendleton County has been greatly affected by the formula shortage. Families struggle to find the specific formula their infant needs and are forced to travel an hour to two hours away in hopes of finding formula.
Emily Hartman, who owns Tiny Tots Daycare in Franklin, described the difficulty in obtaining a specific formula that multiple children in her care need, stating “if I order it today, the back order wait is July or August, and that is just for one can of the Enfamil Gentlease.”
Hartman, who has been searching for ways to restock her inventory at the daycare, and for ways to guide parents through the shortage said, “This is a scary situation for parents to be in, not knowing how they will feed their infants.”
“Parents want to know what they can do to ensure they can feed their infants,” said Hartman.
The White House has previously said it had been working on addressing the shortages since February. With President Joe Biden himself conceding he didn’t understand how big of an effect the shutdown of an Abbott baby formula plant in Michigan and subsequent recalls would have on the baby formula supply until April — but the FDA became aware of the issue in the fall of 2021, according to a CNN analysis and congressional testimony.
While families are looking to state officials for answers, U.S. Senator Shelley Moore Capito, R- W.Va, in an article published by The Exponent Telegram, both “applauds” President Joe Biden’s efforts to address the formula shortage, and asked questions.
Capito asked, “How could this have happened? Why did the FDA and the administration not act quicker to try and alleviate what is a really scary and unsettling time for our young families?”
In the article, Capito goes on to recommend a solution for possible future shortages stating, “We need to make sure we have a supply, but we also need to make sure that if something were to happen and the FDA were to close a facility that we have the ability to create and make alternative facilities. That has been the real problem.”
On May 18, the House passed the Infant Formula Supplemental Appropriations Act, with a bipartisan vote of 231 to 192. West Virginia Congressman Alex Mooney and Congresswoman Carol Miller, both Republicans, both voted against the bill.
This bill would have provided $28 million in emergency supplemental appropriations to address the shortage of infant formula in the United States.
In addition to the bill, a CNN article states, “President Biden announced on Wednesday May 18, he is invoking the Defense Production Act as well as the creation of Operation Fly Formula.” According to CNN, the DFA allows the government more control over industrial production during emergencies, while Operation Fly Formula directs the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Agriculture to utilize the Defense Department’s commercial planes to import formula from abroad.
As for the residents of Pendleton County who struggle to find the specific formula their
infant requires, there are options. Edna Mullenax, who works for Eastern Action, provided a fact sheet from www.hhs.gov.
The fact sheet offers a number of resources that families can use such as reaching out to manufacturer hotlines. Among the hotlines listed are Gerber, Abbott’s, and Reckitt’s.
It also encourages families to utilize local community resources. Mullenax said families can call her at 304-538-7711, “if they are in need of Similac Sensitive, in the orange can.”
Families can also contact United Way at 703-836-7112, which may be able to connect them with a community resource specialist or they can contact the Human Milk Banking Association of North America at 817-810-9984, as well as the local WIC office at 304-358-3088.
Other suggestions would be to talk to one’s OB-GYN or pediatrician about in-office samples they may have available.