U.S. Stocking Up On Avian Vaccine

Vietnamese scientist tests bird flu infected chicken samples at a respiratory virus laboratory, Hanoi, Vietnam, 2005/2/22
The U.S. government is optimistic about a new vaccine to protect against an outbreak of potentially deadly avian flu, and distribution could start as soon as mid-September, a senior federal health official says.

The government is ready to move ahead with ordering significantly more than the 2 million doses it acquired from French vaccine maker Sanofi-Pasteur before testing began earlier this year to jump-start the U.S. vaccine stockpile in case the tests were successful, Dr. Anthony S. Fauci said Sunday.

Additional tests of the vaccine are being conducted on the elderly and children, said Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

Preliminary data from the first 115 of the initial tests on 450 healthy adults showed an immune response that scientists believe is strong enough to protect against the avian influenza that's spreading among birds in Asia and Russia. Fauci said he expects analysis of data from the other 300 tests will show similar results.

"We're now, given these results, going to move ahead with ordering from the company additional doses," he told The Associated Press in a telephone interview.

"I can't tell you exactly how many; that's going to depend on the production capability, but certainly it will be significantly more than the 2 million doses."