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Biological Chemistry

HHS buys new smallpox vaccine

June 11, 2007 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 85, Issue 24

The Department of Health & Human Services has awarded a $500 million contract to Bavarian Nordic A/S of Copenhagen to manufacture 20 million doses of modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) smallpox vaccine for delivery to the U.S. Strategic National Stockpile (SNS). This next-generation vaccine can be given to an estimated 10 million people with compromised immune systems in the event of a smallpox outbreak. The currently stockpiled vaccine was produced using vaccinia virus, a kissing cousin of the smallpox virus. Vaccinia is a live replicating virus that can cause side effects and cannot be administered to people with weakened immune systems such as those on chemotherapy or with HIV/AIDS. MVA, in contrast, is a highly attenuated, or weakened, form of vaccinia virus that cannot replicate in humans and is designed to be administered in two doses. The vaccine underwent Phase I clinical trials at NIH in 2003 and was found to be safe in humans. Several Phase II clinical trials are under way to further assess the safety of the vaccine and to begin to assess its efficacy in normal and immune-compromised individuals. The strategic stockpile came into existence under the Project Bioshield Act of 2004. It is the national repository for medicine and medical supplies that would be needed in a public health emergency or a bioterror attack.


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