US HHS Secretary Mike Leavitt announced that HHS has awarded a contract for $500 million to Bavarian Nordic A/S of Copenhagen, Denmark to manufacture and deliver 20 million doses of a next generation modified vaccinia Ankara (MVA) smallpox vaccine.
The vaccine would be recommended in the event of a smallpox outbreak to protect people in the United States who have weakened immune systems.
The full supply of the vaccine will be added to the Strategic National Stockpile, a reserve of large quantities of medicine and medical supplies to protect the American public if there is a public health emergency.
“To protect ourselves from the remote but extremely grave threat of a deliberate release of smallpox virus, we need vaccines that can be safely given to all Americans, including individuals with weakened immune systems,” Secretary Leavitt said. “Acquiring a stockpile of this new smallpox vaccine is a key step toward protecting even more members of the American public against a smallpox release.”
As part of HHS’ comprehensive strategy to address the public health threat of a smallpox outbreak, the Strategic National Stockpile currently contains sufficient smallpox vaccine for every American. However, that vaccine supply was produced using vaccinia virus, a relative of smallpox virus. A live, replicating virus, vaccinia can cause side effects which, on rare occasions, can be potentially life-threatening. People with compromised immune systems, such as patients on chemotherapy or people with HIV/AIDS should not receive live, replicating smallpox vaccines in non-emergency situations.
The MVA smallpox vaccine contains a highly weakened form of the vaccinia virus that cannot replicate in humans. The MVA vaccine could be used in immunocompromised individuals, of whom there are an estimated 10 million in the U.S. In the event of a possible smallpox outbreak, the 20 million doses (the vaccine is being tested with a two-dose immunization schedule) of MVA vaccine purchased under this contract would be available to them.
This procurement builds upon the MVA smallpox vaccine research and development efforts initiated by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) of the National Institutes of Health.