Sunday, January 20, 2013

Insight: U.S. government investment gives flu vaccines a shot in the arm


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.

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