Supply of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment and the importance of adhering to the legislation

Advisory Alert

March 10, 2023

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To: Local Health System Partners


The purpose of this Advisory Alert is to announce the resumed availability of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment indicated for the prophylaxis of ophthalmia neonatorum (ON), and to highlight the related legislation outlining administration of a prophylactic agent at birth.

Availability of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment

Erythromycin ophthalmic ointment is now readily available for distribution and routine administration of the ophthalmic prophylaxis to the eyes of newborns should resume. This marks the end of a national shortage communicated in a previously issued Advisory Alert.

Regulation 557 Communicable Diseases – Eyes of a Newborn

Regulation 557 Communicable Diseases – General under the Health Protection and Promotion Act requires that all health care professionals attending the birth of a child in Ontario instill prophylactic antibiotic into the eyes of newborns within one hour of delivery (or as soon afterwards as is practicable), to destroy any infectious agent that might cause ON, without causing injury to the child.

As of January 1, 2019, a parent may request in writing to their health care provider that prophylactic eye drops not be instilled in the eyes of their newborn. Opt-out requests may only be granted by the health care provider under the conditions outlined below:

  1. The parent of the child making the request has received information on the benefits and risks of the ophthalmic agent, as well as information on the likely consequences of non-administration of the ophthalmic agent; and
  2. An assessment has been done by a member of a health profession set out in Schedule 1 of the Regulated Health Professions Act, 1994 to confirm there is no serious risk of transmission to the child of an infectious agent that might cause ophthalmia neonatorum.

Health care providers are urged to ensure they have adequate supply of erythromycin ophthalmic ointment and to return to routine administration. All case-by-case administration based on individual risk assessment should be ceased.

For all reporting, inquiries, or comments, please contact Public Health Sudbury & Districts at 705.522.9200, ext. 342 (toll-free 1.866.522.9200).


Original Signed By

Dr. Marlene Spruyt

Acting Medical Officer of Health

On behalf of Dr. Penny Sutcliffe Medical Officer of Health and Chief Executive Officer

NOTE: All Advisory Alerts are found on our website.

This item was last modified on March 10, 2023