BARDA awards contracts for influenza vaccine

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority has announced a new contract worth $57 million to help safeguard the United States in the case of a pandemic influenza outbreak.

The contract with French pharmaceutical company Sanofi Pasteur is an extension of an existing 2004 contract. Under the terms, Sanofi will continue to furnish eggs and other influenza preparedness related supplies, according to KansasCity.com.

“This contract ensures that progress continues in creating a solid base for manufacturing pandemic influenza vaccine in the United States,” BARDA Director Dr. Robin Robinson said, according to KansasCity.com. “While BARDA is currently investing in the development of new vaccine technologies, we must also ensure a robust supply of vaccine for Americans with technologies currently available.”

Influenza vaccine that is made in the United States utilizes chicken eggs that are monitored closely for signs of contamination. Before the 2004 contract was signed, these eggs were only available at the time when the seasonal influenza vaccine was produced, KansasCity.com reports. Since pandemic influenza could strike at anytime it has been deemed necessary to have eggs available in stockpiles all year.

The original contract provided the eggs that were needed to manufacture vaccine during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, which occurred during a time when supplies would have normally been restricted. The terms allowed for twice as many eggs as were needed for the avian-flu pre-pandemic stockpiles, allowing Sanofi to open a second U.S production line to make the 2009 H1N1 vaccine.

The new contract, KansasCity.com reports, will allow Sanofi to open a third production line for use in a pandemic situation. BARDA also retains an option to fund production of flu vaccine from Sanofi for research purposes.