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Last Updated

29 Jan 2003

Source: Reuters, January 29, 2003

Bush Asks for More Bioterror Vaccines, Drugs

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush on Tuesday proposed what he called a comprehensive new plan to help protect Americans from biological attack by speeding the development of new vaccines and drugs.

He asked Congress to allocate nearly $6 billion over 10 years to develop new vaccines against the most likely germ weapons such as anthrax, ebola, plague and botulinum toxin.

In his State of the Union Address he also asked that the Food and Drug Administration be given powers to make experimental drugs available for use in an emergency. He called the overall plan Project Bioshield.

"The budget I send you will propose almost $6 billion to quickly make available effective vaccines and treatments against agents like anthrax, botulinum toxin, ebola and plague," Bush said.

"We must assume that our enemies would use these diseases as weapons, and we must act before the dangers are upon us."

The United States has already started vaccinating 400,000 health workers against smallpox, a disease eradicated in 1979. These workers would then be ready to vaccinate the general public in case there was a smallpox attack.

There is also a vaccine against anthrax, but because anthrax can be easily treated with antibiotics if it is diagnosed in time, it is not widely used. Researchers are working on a better version of an anthrax vaccine that would work in fewer than the current six-dose regimen.

There was once a vaccine against plague, which can also be treated with antibiotics, but the company that made it stopped in 1999. Work is underway on a plague vaccine.

Experiments are underway to find a vaccine against Ebola, a recently discovered and deadly virus that experts fear could be used as a biological weapon.

Botulinum toxin is best known as a food poisoning agent and the ingredient in Botox injections used by plastic surgeons and in medicine. It is highly deadly and work is underway to develop anti-toxins that can counteract its effects.