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Injections Said to Hamper Bioterror Fight


PHILADELPHIA (AP) - Coming up with medicines that can be given in a nasal spray or by slapping on a patch rather than injections would be a big help in developing and stockpiling vaccines against major bioterrorism threats, an official involved in the government's Project Bioshield said Sunday. Trying to prepare and administer injections to the entire populations of even just major urban areas would be unwieldy and impractical, Dr. Philip K. Russell said in a talk wrapping up a meeting of the American Society of Tropical Medicine and Hygiene in Philadelphia.

"That could crush the public health structure, if you needed a multi-dose vaccine," said Russell, an official in Health and Human Services Department's Office of Public Health and Preparedness.

As director of the department's Office of Research and Development, Russell is a senior adviser on vaccine development and production, the goal of the proposed $5.6 billion federal Bioshield Act, now pending in the Senate. Russell said officials hope for passage of the act early next year.

Meanwhile, the program has already taken its first steps, he said. The National Institutes of Health has so far awarded two contracts for development of a second-generation anthrax vaccine, to VaxGen Inc. in San Francisco and to Avecia in England.

Biotechnology companies have been seeking a more effective anthrax vaccine since the 2001 anthrax mail attacks that killed five people, because the only vaccine now approved requires six shots over 18 months, plus an annual booster, and can cause side effects.

In addition to trying to reduce the number of shots, scientists will discuss other ways of administering vaccines at a conference his department is coordinating Dec. 18 and 19 in Rockville, Md., including jet injectors, transdermal patches and oral and nasal sprays.

Health officials also want to be sure vaccines being developed for Project Bioshield won't deteriorate in storage, Russell said.

"I don't want to put a lot of stuff in the stockpile that ends up being thrown away in a few years, and has to be replaced at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars," said Russell, former director of the Army Medical Institute of Infectious Diseases and commander of the Army Medical Research and Development Command.

Arranging trials of new vaccines also will be time consuming, Russell said, adding that it isn't yet known when the first new vaccines might be delivered.