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Last Updated

19 Dec 2002

Source: New York Times, November 7, 2001.


Smallpox Vaccine Costlier Than Expected


WASHINGTON, Nov. 6 Tommy G. Thompson, the secretary of health and human services, warned tonight that procuring 246 million doses of smallpox vaccine would cost more than the $509 million he had previously predicted.

Mr. Thompson said that he told the Office of Management and Budget today that the cost would be higher, although he did not specify what it would be. The government had sought to pay a little more than $2 a dose.

"There's no question the requests for proposal, the bids, came in higher than I had anticipated," Mr. Thompson told reporters. "The proposals are all below $8, but they are much higher than I had anticipated."

Two rounds of contract talks have narrowed the field from 10 companies to 4 and now to 3. Merck, Glaxo- SmithKline and Acambis are still in the running, while American Home Products  said tonight that it had dropped out. Each of the three left is prepared to supply the full 246 million doses, Mr. Thompson said.

The United States has 15 million doses that were made in the 1970's, and is experimenting with ways to dilute those vaccines to inoculate up to five times that number of people. The military already has a contract to buy 54 million doses by next year, and Mr. Thompson has been seeking enough additional vaccine so that every American could be inoculated.

While the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has just inoculated 140 medical workers who might be needed to respond to an outbreak, no decision has been made on whether to begin administering vaccines to the general public.