U.S. Secretary of Health & Human Services Tommy G. Thompson has announced the awarding of a contract to Sanofi Aventis Inc., part of the Sanofi Aventis Group, to ensure there are enough eggs on hand to manufacture flu vaccines in the event of a pandemic flu outbreak or future vaccine shortages.
This contract will ensure eggs are available to permit vaccine production at any time during the year, which will prevent gaps in flu vaccine supply due to inflexible, tightly planned manufacturing schedules, inadequate surge capacity and dependency on foreign manufacturers. It also will provide for the stockpiling of other needed vaccine manufacturing supplies for ready availability.
"The existing flu vaccine manufacturing system is not adequate to meet the nation's needs in the event of a flu pandemic or a shortage," Thompson said. "This is an important step toward protecting Americans should a flu pandemic break out."
This plan secures the egg supply for influenza vaccine manufacturing by adding more U.S. egg suppliers to the supply chain as backup suppliers and insuring the integrity of the egg supply with contingency flocks in the event that avian diseases, including avian influenza, natural disasters or bioterrorism threats occur.
This contract follows Thompson's announcement in August of the National Pandemic Influenza Preparedness and Response Plan, which outlines a coordinated national strategy to prepare for and respond to an influenza pandemic.
The draft plan may be found online at http://www.hhs.gov/nvpo/pandemicplan and is a result of years of work by the department.
The contract to Aventis Pasteur is nearly $10 million for the base contract to develop and implement the egg supply plan for transition to a year round egg supply, to stockpile other vaccine manufacturing supplies and to obtain initial investigational lots of pandemic influenza vaccine. Maintenance of the egg supply plan, which will provide an increased surge capacity for vaccine manufacturing, and more investigational lots of pilot pandemic influenza vaccines through 2008, may increase the overall contract value to $41 million.
HHS is taking this step as part of its plan to enhance the influenza vaccine manufacturing capability in the U.S. Influenza vaccines are manufactured in a cumbersome, highly-structured process in which hen's eggs are individually inoculated with the virus as part of a 9-month production cycle to provide yearly flu vaccines. Shortages and pandemics may occur at any time during the year and the number of vaccine doses needed for influenza pandemic will exceed present manufacturing capacity.