- The Washington Times - Sunday, August 7, 2005

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Mass production of a new vaccine that scientists think could protect against an avian flu outbreak could begin as early as mid-September, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases said yesterday.

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

Additional tests of the vaccine are being conducted on the elderly and children.

Preliminary data from the first 115 of the initial tests on 450 healthy adults showed an immune response that scientists think is strong enough to protect against the avian influenza that is spreading among birds in Asia and Russia.

“We’re now, given these results, going to move ahead with ordering from the company additional doses,” he said. “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.”

For the past year, government health officials have been hurrying to develop the vaccine because of fears that the avian influenza strain could change into one that could spread rapidly among humans worldwide.

Although the strain has killed millions of birds, only about 50 humans have died from it, and there has been little human-to-human transmission of the virus.

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