Federal Government Contracts with Two Companies To Develop New Anthrax Vaccine
HHS officials announced yesterday they have awarded two contracts totaling $22.5 million to British company Avecia and California-based VaxGen to develop a new anthrax vaccine, the Washington Post reports. The new vaccine will have several "major differences" from the current regimen: it will be made with "more modern procedures," it will be able to be taken after anthrax exposure and it will be administered in three doses or less (Washington Post, 10/4). The current vaccine, manufactured by Michigan-based Bioport and used predominantly by the military, requires six shots over 18 months along with an annual booster shot, and it "causes certain side effects," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports (Meckler, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/3). The companies are expected to begin human-safety tests in May, according to the Wall Street Journal. The contracts stipulate that pilot doses of the vaccine and a manufacturing plan for more than 20 million doses be delivered by 2003. In 2004, HHS will award new contracts for the manufacture and storage of 25 million doses of the new vaccine (Chase, Wall Street Journal, 10/4). "Vaccines are the best method of protecting the public against infectious diseases," Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said. HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson added, "These awards represent the first step toward our goal of securing an initial 25 million doses of an improved anthrax vaccine for our emergency stockpile" (HHS release, 10/3). The two contracts "reflec[t] the Bush administration's ongoing concerns about bioterrorism," according to the Post (Washington Post, 10/4).This is part of the California Healthline Daily Edition, a summary of health policy coverage from major news organizations. Sign up for an email subscription.