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The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded contracts to three drug makers - Sanofi Pasteur, Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline - for $199.5 million more worth of vaccines against the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has awarded contracts to three drug makers — Sanofi Pasteur (Lyon Cedex, France, www.sanofipasteur.com), Novartis (Basel, Switzerland, www.novartis.com) and GlaxoSmithKline (London, UK, www.gsk.com) — for $199.5-million more worth of vaccines against the H5N1 avian influenza virus. The agreement with Sanofi Pasteur is valued at $117.9 million, while Novartis and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) have been awarded $40.95 million and $40.6 million each.
The vaccine will be formulated against a new strain, or clade, of H5N1 that has emerged in recent months. It is intended to protect people against a strain of avian influenza called H5N1 that is spreading in Asia, Africa, the Middle East, and parts of Europe, and that could potentially lead to a global pandemic.
“Having a stockpile of influenza vaccine that may offer protection against the H5N1 virus is an important part of our pandemic influenza preparedness plan,” HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt said in a statement. According to Leavitt, the new vaccine will add to the existing stockpile of 5.9 million doses of H5N1 vaccine, which is enough to vaccinate about 3 million people because two doses are needed to achieve full immunity.
Manufacturing and stockpiling more than one clade of H5N1 vaccine is strategic because circulating H5N1 influenza strains are mutating and diverging into distinct antigenic groups. Stockpiling bulk material representative of strains constituting additional variants of the virus will allow manufacturers to gain experience with the production of these vaccines at industrial-scale and will provide a supply of pre-pandemic vaccine more quickly, should it be needed.