Progress on flu vaccine supply announced

Oct 28, 2004 (CIDRAP News) – About 5 million additional doses of injectable flu vaccine have been identified that will hopefully be added to the US supply, according to an announcement made today by Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Tommy Thompson. In addition, 300,000 doses are being redirected to high-risk individuals from stores originally planned for military personnel and federal employees.

The 5 million doses come from two foreign sources—a GlaxoSmithKline facility in Germany and an IDBiomedical facility in Canada, according to an HHS press release. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) experts are traveling to those locations to evaluate the plants and the vaccines and plan for US acquisition if they pass inspection. Other foreign sources of vaccine continue to be explored as well, said Thompson.

Vaccine from the new foreign sources would likely be distributed under investigational new drug (IND) status, according to Thompson. This would require vaccinees to sign a consent form and to follow up with a healthcare worker after receiving the injection.

Additional injectable doses numbering about 200,000 are being freed up by substituion of MedImmune's inhalable FluMist vaccine for some military personnel who were to receive shots. Another100,000 injectable doses are being redirected from the Federal Occupational Health service to high-priority populations, according to the release.

"We're growing stronger each week in our supply of vaccines and medicines, which makes us optimistic about our ability to protect the American public as we go into flu season," Thompson said.

Thompson also pointed out that the nation has enough antiviral medicine stockpiled to potentially prevent or treat flu in more than 40 million people. In addition, he announced that Merck & Co. is increasing production of its Pneumovax 23 vaccine, which can be used in children older than 2 and in adults to protect against pneumonia, one of the major complications of influenza. Merck will make available 17 to 18 million doses, compared with the 6 to 7 million doses normally produced.

"On behalf of the President, I want to extend the administration's appreciation to citizens across America, who in accordance with CDC guidelines, are forgoing the flu shot so that someone in a priority category can get one," Secretary Thompson said. "Working together, we can make sure that the vaccine doses go to those who are most vulnerable."

The new doses expand upon the 61 million already in the process of distribution. This supply comprises 58 million injectable doses from Aventis Pasteur and 3 million inhalable doses from MedImmune. The planned total supply of 100 million doses was cut in half when 46 to48 million doses expected from Chiron Corp. were suddenly cancelled early this month because of contamination concerns.

See also:

HHS Oct 28 Press Release
http://archive.hhs.gov/news/press/2004pres/20041028a.html

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