U.S. readies $1B order for bulk vax ingredients

The U.S. has yet to decide whether to trigger a mass vaccination program against the swine flu outbreak this fall, but it is determined to have all the building blocks in place in case the Obama administration flips on the green light later this summer. HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius (photo) said yesterday that she is ready to announce a billion-dollar order for the bulk ingredients needed for a vaccination campaign.

"We are aggressively working on, first of all, testing the virus strains to get a vaccination ready. It needs to be safe so testing and clinical trials will start this month. We'll know a lot more by the end of the summer and it needs to be effective," she said.

All of the major vaccine producers and many smaller companies have been working around-the-clock to identify and test a new vaccine that can guard against the new H1N1 virus. And a number of countries have been placing orders for vaccine, anxious to get at the front of the line for deliveries. The scramble quickly triggered a lively discussion over the fate of poorer nations, which will have to rely on donated or discounted supplies as wealthier nations can afford to buy stockpiles as needed.

An FDA advisory panel will convene July 23rd to discuss the clinical trials underway for a new vaccine. The World Health Organization, meanwhile, is considering a vaccination advisory for swine flu that could come as early as today.

- read the story from Reuters

ALSO: The death of a six-year-old girl in the UK has brought the death toll in that country to 16 as new cases of swine flu continue to be reported around the globe. Report

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