Apr 16, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) plans to buy 4 million doses of influenza vaccine this year in an unprecedented step to prevent the kinds of shortages that occurred last season.
"This is a contingency in the event of a run on the vaccine like we had last year," said Curtis Allen, a spokesman for the CDC's National Immunization Program (NIP). He said the CDC has never stockpiled flu vaccine before.
Plans call for buying 4 million doses of vaccine this year and another 4 million next year, at a cost of $40 million each year, Allen told CIDRAP News. The stockpile is intended for children and will be acquired through the Vaccines for Children Program, he said. The program provides free vaccines to physicians who care for uninsured and underinsured children, according to the CDC.
Last year many areas ran out of injectable flu vaccine by early December. The shortages prompted the CDC to recommend on Dec 11 that remaining doses be reserved for high-risk groups. The agency also bought up some supplies to distribute to states to help alleviate their shortages. Flumist, the new intranasal vaccine, remained available through the season, but it was recommended only for healthy people between 5 and 49 years old.
Allen said the CDC has awarded no purchase contracts for the stockpile yet. Because circulating flu viruses change from year to year, a new vaccine is made each year and generally becomes available in September.
The stockpile plan was first mentioned by the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) in February at a press conference on the fiscal year 2005 budget, Allen noted.
Dr. Stephen Cochi, acting director of the NIP, said officials hope the stockpile will give manufacturers an incentive to make more doses this year, according to a recent Associated Press report.
Although the stockpile is intended for children, some doses could go to adults in an emergency, if Congress approved, Cochi was quoted as saying.
Feb 2 HHS news release that mentions the vaccine stockpile plan
NIP Vaccines for Children Program