HONOLULU (KHON2) — Local pediatrician Dr. Theresa Wee said Abbott’s plant shutdown caused about a 50% reduction of baby formula nationwide.
She added Abbott’s competitor, Mead Johnson, has stepped up by increasing production.
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“I do think that there is some talk, some panic, but I just spoke with the local Mead Johnson representative,” Dr. Wee said. “And so far, the shortage does not seem to be as extreme as on the mainland. So, we have not been hit hard with it yet.”
But some mothers are feeling the strain. Kihei mom Sierra London’s 11-month-old is about to be off formula, but she is worried about others who still need it.
“I have friends who are calling me from the mainland and trying to ask me if I can buy formula here,” London said. “But then I’m also trying to call them to see if they can buy formula for me, too.”
Jena Mahina, a Lihue mom of three, said she has driven all over the Garden Isle to find the right formula. But help is available through the Department of Health’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program. WIC uses federal funds to assist new and nursing mothers in finding resources — including formula.
“The outer islands are more, it’s a bigger challenge for the outer islands, we have found,” said WIC Public Health Nutritionist Lyn Salamanca. “Fortunately, USDA kind of has worked with us pretty quickly and we’ve been able to make some flexibilities so that when families get to the store, if that product is not there, they have a list of substitutes that they could purchase.”
Dr. Wee added retailers like Target and Walmart have online search options that let customers enter zip codes to find formulas and said local doctors are more than willing to help.
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“Talk to your doctor, talk to your WIC representative,” Dr. Wee said. “Because as I mentioned, I don’t believe the shortage is as severe right now in Hawaii and you can do your homework and put in your zip code and go to those online.”