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Lobbying blocks better anthrax vaccine


WASHINGTON, Dec. 2 An inferior anthrax vaccine fills the national stockpile because of lobbying, reports say.

When fear of anthrax was at its peak, shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, scientists at the Institute of Medicine called for a vaccine that was effective in 30 days, had few side effects and a long shelf life, the Los Angeles Times reported Sunday.

VaxGen Inc. of San Francisco was preparing just such a vaccine, and even won an $877.5 million contract, but its product never made it into the stockpile because of lobbying by the old vaccine's producer, Emergent BioSolutions Inc. of Rockville, Md., the Times said.

Emergent, which relied on its anthrax vaccine to remain solvent, hired 50 lobbyists, turning the tables quickly on VaxGen. Stricter testing requirements were imposed, and Congress overruled the advice of scientific advisers who recommended the company be paid partially in advance to finalize the vaccine, the newspaper said.

As a result, six years later, the stockpile is filled with hundreds of millions of dollars worth of the Emergent vaccine, the Times reported, and Emergent continues to win new federal contracts.