UK AWARDS BIRD FLU VACCINE CONTRACTS TO CHIRON AND BAXTER
The UK Department of Health has awarded contracts to pharmaceutical firms Chiron and Baxter to produce 3.5 million doses of avian flu vaccine. The doses, which will be delivered by October, will be administered to at-risk groups such as healthcare workers and other first-responders, who would have initial contact with flu victims in the event of a pandemic. Together, the contracts are valued at approximately 33 million pounds.
Chiron, which currently has a contract to supply the U.S. government with pre-pandemic avian flu vaccine, subsequently announced that the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has extended the company's production time-limit in the wake of the UK order. Additionally, Baxter is working with the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to develop a cell culture-based pandemic influenza vaccine.
In addition to the new orders, the UK Department of Health has requested 14.6 million batches -- enough for 25 percent of the UK's population -- of the antiviral drug Tamiflu, which has been shown to lessen the severity of avian flu symptoms.