EpiPen shortage keeping some kids out of school

Last Updated Oct 9, 2018 9:09 PM EDT

Eden Morris should be in kindergarten with his friends but the 5-year-old has been home since the school year started. Eden has severe allergies so Spanaway Elementary, about 35 miles south of Seattle, won't let him go to school without an EpiPen.

The U.S. is experiencing a shortage of the lifesaving device and parents are scrambling to find them because some schools won't let kids with allergies in the classroom if they don't have one. This affects as many as two students in every classroom in the U.S.

"There's nothing else that made me feel worse than my son telling me, 'Mom, why can't I go to school? Why am I different from other kids?'" Eden's mom, Chiquita, told CBS News' John Blackstone.

Morris says she tried for a year to get the medication. First, her insurance company refused to cover the $700 charge. Then, because of the shortage, she couldn't even get it.

"I called my pharmacy, and they were like, 'Oh no, we're not gonna have any,'" Morris said.

She says the school didn't notify her that an EpiPen was required until the first day of school when Eden was pulled out.

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"I was like, okay, so how long can you guys keep my son out of school? Well, until he gets an EpiPen," Morris said.

She called multiple pharmacies each day without any luck until her son's story aired on CBS Seattle affiliate KIRO-TV. That's when she received a phone call from a representative at Mylan, which distributes the EpiPen.

"She found out where there is one available….I was so happy, blessed and thankful that someone took the time to hear our voice. Someone took the time to help my son," Morris said.

In a statement to CBS News, the Bethel School District said: "Our school nurses have been working with families throughout the EpiPen shortage to get students into school as quickly as possible... Our School Board Policy 3413 and the Washington state law it's based on states that prior to attendance at school, each child with a life-threatening health condition shall present a medication or treatment order addressing the condition."

But Morris thinks the district should do more to help kids stay in school.

"You're discriminating these children because they don't have a product available," she said.

Dr. Doreen Kiss is a pediatrician and clinic chief at the UW Medicine Kent-Des Moines Clinic.

"We're in a national crisis with this shortage," Kiss said. "When the decisions are, do we go to school and take a risk of having an exposure versus being excluded for a few months, it's a very difficult situation."

The EpiPen shortage is caused by manufacturing changes in response to FDA violations. It's so severe that in August, the FDA extended the expiration date for some EpiPens by four months.

In a statement to CBS News, Mylan said in part, "We've been working tirelessly to make sure that patients and caregivers are aware of our customer relations number as we have been highly successful in locating product. We continue to encourage patients and caregivers who are experiencing difficulty filling their prescription to call us at 800-796-9526 so we can help."

"I made an effort for my son…and there is someone out there to help you, you just got to speak up," Morris said.