United States Has Enough Smallpox Vaccine To Inoculate All Residents, Fauci Says
The U.S. government possesses enough doses of the smallpox vaccine to inoculate every person in the nation, National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Dr. Anthony Fauci said yesterday, the AP/Nando Times reports. Fauci, speaking at an American Society for Microbiology infectious disease conference in San Diego, said that the 86 million doses of smallpox vaccine found in the freezers of drug maker Aventis Pasteur last March have undergone testing that determined they can be diluted to produce more doses (Haney, AP/Nando Times, 9/29). The tests found that the drug can be diluted safely on a five-to-one ratio, similar to the 15 million doses of Dryvax vaccine the government had previously stored. "[The Aventis Pasteur vaccine] seems to be reacting in almost identical fashion to Dryvax. It would be no problem to use," Fauci said (Beil, Dallas Morning News, 9/30). When diluted five-to-one, the Aventis Pasteur vaccine could produce more than 300 million doses. In addition, drug maker Acambis is under contract to produce another 209 million doses, set to arrive "early next year," according to the AP/Times. "We really are fully protected. We have enough doses to cover everyone right now," Dr. Michael Osterholm, a bioterrorism adviser to HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson, said (AP/Nando Times, 9/29). Fauci's announcement follows a report on Friday that the Bush administration plans to announce a policy to eventually offer voluntary smallpox vaccinations to everyone in America. However, Gordon Johndroe, a spokesperson for the Bush administration, said no decisions have been made and the administration "continue[s] to review and examine this issue." Meanwhile, scientists at the ASM conference warned that mass smallpox vaccination could cause more deaths than the anthrax attacks of last fall, USA Today reports. It is expected that between one and two people could die from the vaccine for every million people immunized, according to USA Today (Manning, USA Today, 9/29).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.