Interest in vaccines spiked after a particularly deadly
strain of bird flu known as H5N1 re-emerged in 2003, raising the threat
of a global pandemic that could kill millions. At the time, there were
just two vaccine manufacturers located on U.S. soil.
A year later, U.S. flu vaccine supplies were devastated
by contamination at a plant in Liverpool, England. That helped
underscore the need for America to have its own manufacturing
capabilities, said Robin Robinson, director of the U.S. Biomedical
Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, a part of the
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Part of the fear was that in a pandemic, countries
might be tempted to commandeer all flu vaccines made within their
borders, leaving the U.S. exposed. "We needed to develop new vaccines
using modern technologies that would make not only more vaccine
available sooner, but also make it more effective," Robinson said.