HHS Buys Additional Vaccine for Potential Use in an Influenza Pandemic

WASHINGTON, D.C. Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Mike Leavitt announces the purchase of additional vaccine that could be used in the event of a potential influenza pandemic.

The department has awarded contracts totaling $199.45 million to three vaccine makers to manufacture 5.3 million 90-microgram doses of influenza vaccine designed to protect against the H5N1 influenza 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.

"Having a stockpile of influenza vaccine that may offer protection against the H5N1 virus is an important part of our pandemic influenza preparedness plan," Leavitt said. "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 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 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.

Source: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

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