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Bush Administration Seeks Capability to Vaccinate 25 Million With New Anthrax Vaccine

Global Security Newswire

The U.S. Health and Human Services Department last week opened bidding for contracts to develop a stockpile of a new anthrax vaccine capable of inoculating 25 million people, according to the Associated Press (see GSN, March 9).

The new vaccine, developed by federal scientists, would have fewer side effects and require about half as many injections as the current anthrax vaccine, according to the AP. Two companies — the U.S.-based VaxGen and the United Kingdom-based Avecia — have received initial contracts to produce a small amount of the new vaccine to conduct human safety tests. While any interested company can bid on the remaining vaccine production, the early involvement of VaxGen and Avecia will make them prime candidates for the new contracts, AP reported (Associated Press, March 12).

The most likely use of the new vaccine would be to inoculate the entire population of a city after an anthrax attack, to provide long-term protection against lingering anthrax spores, according to experts. Preventive vaccinations may be considered for some high-risk occupational groups, such as hazardous material teams and postal workers, said National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Director Anthony Fauci.

The U.S. Defense Department has not publicly commented on using the new vaccine, but experts said the Pentagon is likely do so once it is licensed by the Food and Drug Administration, which could occur as early as 2006 (Justin Gillis, Washington Post, March 12).