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Senate Passes Vaccine Incentive Bill, But Full Congressional Approval Remains Unlikely

Global Security Newswire

The U.S. Senate approved legislation Tuesday to try to spur the development of vaccines to counter biological terrorism, but it appeared unlikely that the whole Congress would act on the measure before its term expires this week, the Winston-Salem Journal reported (see GSN, Nov. 15).

The bill, passed by unanimous consent, would establish the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority within the U.S. Health and Human Services Department. A House version of the bill passed earlier this year (see GSN, Sept. 22), but it appeared unlikely that Congress would find time to resolve differences in the two bills before it is scheduled to complete its term this week, according to the Journal (Mary Shaffrey, Winston-Salem Journal, Dec. 6).

Following the 2001 anthrax mail attacks in the United States, Congress passed so-called Bioshield legislation to encourage the pharmaceutical industry to develop new vaccines to defend against potential bioterrorist agents. The industry, however, has complained that Bioshield has too many problems and that vaccine development remains too risky and expensive (see GSN, Sept. 12).

“We cannot close our eyes and pretend that [Bioshield] has been a success — it hasn’t,” Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.) said in a statement yesterday praising the passage of the new bill. “The pharmaceutical industry is not commercializing enough drugs to fight the spread of infectious diseases — whether they are spread naturally, accidentally or through the efforts of man” (Enzi release, Dec. 6).