24/02/2006

Government awards contracts for bird flu vaccine

Health Minister, Rosie Winterton has announced the award of contracts to Baxter and Chiron for supplies of around 3.5 million doses of H5N1 vaccine.

The announcement was made as EU Health Ministers attended a special meeting in Vienna to take stock of recent events and discuss coordination action at European level.

The contracts worth £33 million are part of the work to prepare for and reduce the impact of a possible flu pandemic.

The vaccine will be used to carry out further research and could also be used to vaccinate frontline healthcare workers before a specific pandemic vaccine can be developed.

Health Minister, Rosie Winterton said: "We take the potential threat posed by pandemic flu very seriously and as the WHO and a recent Lords Science and Technology Committee has recognised the UK is among the best prepared countries in the world. But, we are not complacent and recognise that more work needs to be done in order to make the country as fully prepared as possible to meet the threat.

"Today we have announced our intention to award the contract for the supply of around 3.5 million doses of H5N1 vaccine. Building a stockpile will allow us to carry out more research and could be offered as a possible first line of defence for NHS workers whilst the exact vaccine to match the pandemic flu strain is manufactured. This is in addition to placing sleeping contracts for 120 million doses of pandemic vaccine, which will ensure access to the vaccine once it is developed".

The vaccine is scheduled for delivery in May and October 2006.

(SP)

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