Ophthalmia Neonatorum and Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment Shortage

Advisory Alert

January 14, 2019

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To community healthcare providers:

Re: Ophthalmia Neonatorum and Erythromycin Ophthalmic Ointment Shortage

We are alerting you to an ongoing erythromycin ophthalmic ointment shortage and its implications given the new regulations concerning treatment of Ophthalmia Neonatorum.

On January 1, 2019, an amendment to Regulation 557 under the Health Protection and Promotion Act came into force that allows parents, under certain conditions, to opt-out of the mandatory prophylactic eye treatment administered to all infants at birth. This treatment is to prevent transmission of Ophthalmia Neonatorum, which can be caused by N. gonorrhea and C. trachomatis.

We want to reinforce that the administration of ophthalmic prophylaxis to the eyes of newborns is a mandatory legislated requirement under the Act. Parental opt-out provision cannot be used as a mechanism to address this shortage. An opt-out request can only be granted if certain conditions as stipulated in the Regulation have been met. These are as follows:

During the shortage, healthcare professionals are to continue to administer the ophthalmic prophylaxis to the eyes of all newborns as feasible and to the extent that the ophthalmic ointment or other effective ophthalmic agent is available. Area hospitals have put into place measures to conserve erythromycin ophthalmic ointment supply, such as stratifying provision of the treatment by risk of transmission. The Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care will continue to work with Local Health Integration Networks and hospitals to address supply issues until the drug shortage comes to an end.


Ariella Zbar, MD, CCFP, MPH, MBA, FRCPC
Associate Medical Officer of Health and Director, Clinical Services

This item was last modified on January 14, 2019