Monday, November 20, 2006
US Health and Human Services awards 200 million in bird flu fight - vaccine stockpile
Michael Leavitt, secretary of the United States Department of Health and Human Services, announced on Monday that contracts totaling almost 200 million dollars, have been awarded to three vaccine makers to manufacture 5.3 million 90-microgram doses of influenza vaccine designed to protect against the H5N1 influenza bird flu virus strain.
The three awards include a $117.9 million contract to sanofi pasteur for 3.7 million doses, a $40.95 million contract to Novartis for 800,000 doses and a $40.6 million to GlaxoSmithKline for 800,000 doses.
Secretary Leavitt was quoted as saying, “Having a stockpile of influenza vaccine that may offer protection against the H5N1 virus is an important part of our pandemic influenza preparedness plan,”. “These contracts are a continuation of our aggressive multi-pronged approach to a potentially critical public health challenge.”
At two 90-microgram doses per person, these purchases provide enough courses to vaccinate nearly 2.7 million people. Initial clinical studies of H5N1 bird flu vaccine in humans have shown that two 90-microgram doses of the vaccine are required to stimulate a level of immune response that researchers anticipate would provide protection for an individual against the H5N1 bird flu strains that have been spreading among birds in Asia.
However, further clinical testing is underway, including the evaluation of techniques that may reduce the amount of antigen (active ingredient) per dose needed to achieve effective individual protection.
These newest vaccine purchases supplement the existing stockpile of 5.9 million doses of H5N1 vaccine and build on the department’s plans to buy enough vaccine for 20 million people. This additional vaccine will be placed in the nation’s Strategic National Stockpile where they will be available for use should an influenza pandemic occur.
HHS’ effort to stockpile vaccine is part of a broader effort by the department to accelerate the development and production of new technologies for influenza vaccines within the U.S. Earlier this year, HHS announced a $1 billion investment to support the advanced development of cell-based production technologies for influenza vaccines and will help to modernize and strengthen the nation’s influenza vaccine production by creating an alternative to producing influenza vaccines in eggs.