HHS buys another 375,000 doses of flu vaccine

Dec 15, 2003 (CIDRAP News) – The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is buying 375,000 doses of influenza vaccine from British drug maker Chiron to boost the nation's waning vaccine supply, HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson announced today.

In addition, HHS has negotiated a contract for 3 million doses of the intranasal vaccine FluMist that state and local health departments can buy if needed, Thompson announced.

Thompson said the Chiron vaccine is a type already licensed and in use in the United States. Currently in bulk form, the vaccine needs to be packaged and will become available in January. "The vaccine will be made available for state and local purchase according to an allocation system designed to ensure equitable distribution of vaccine," the HHS announcement said.

Chiron is one of only two current manufacturers of injectable flu vaccine for the US market. Thompson announced Dec 11 that HHS was buying 250,000 doses of flu vaccine from the other major manufacturer, Aventis Pasteur. That purchase included 100,000 doses of adult vaccine, available immediately, and 150,000 doses of children's vaccine to become available in January.

About 83 million doses of flu vaccine were produced for the United States this year, including about 4 million doses of FluMist, federal officials have said. The intranasal vaccine is currently approved only for healthy people between the ages of 5 and 49 years.

Today's announcement did not list the cost of the Chiron vaccine or explain how the FluMist contract will work, and details were not immediately available from HHS.

Because of growing shortages of injectable vaccine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommended last week that people at high risk for flu complications be first in line for the shots. Those groups include healthy children aged 6 to 23 months, people 65 years or older, pregnant women in their second or third trimester during the flu season, and anyone 2 years or older who has a chronic health condition.

Healthcare workers and others in contact with people in high-risk groups should be next in line for injectable vaccine, the CDC advised. The agency also said that healthy people aged 5 to 49 should be encouraged to get FluMist, which is made by MedImmune and distributed by Wyeth.

See also:

HHS news release

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