Thursday, October 30, 2014

We Are Ignoring the US' $440 Million Surge Capacity for Ebola vaccine production

Ebola is killing 60-70% of those affected, even with treatment.  Manufacturers say it will take quite a while to produce sufficient supplies of a vaccine, and that bulk manufacturing will only begin after one of several vaccine candidates is chosen. This makes no sense. The US government spent $440 million to help 3 companies develop surge facilities to manufacture drugs and vaccines for exactly this type of epidemic. Here's what DHHS claims it can do--but it isn't doing this:
Since 2010, HHS has taken steps to increase national vaccine manufacturing capacity with nimble and flexible technologies, such as cell-based vaccine technologies. These technologies may assist HHS in providing more pandemic influenza vaccine sooner. Cell-based vaccine production could more easily meet surge capacity needs because cells could be frozen and stored in advance of an epidemic, or developed rapidly in response to an epidemic.
Furthermore, vaccine manufacturers gear up each year to produce hundreds of millions of flu vaccine doses, when their degree of efficacy is a huge question mark.

What needs to happen is that the top candidate (currently 3) Ebola vaccines should be produced starting now in these surge facilities.  That way, once they have been tested, there will already be a stockpile to begin using. Alternatively, stop making some flu vaccines (almost no country besides the US has a universal flu vaccine policy, since effectiveness is questionable) and use the factories to make Ebola vaccine.

Influenza kills perhaps 2/10,000, but there is no evidence the elderly people who die from flu even benefit from flu vaccinations. Ebola kills 2/3.  Do the math, DHHS!

DHHS wasted most of the 70 billion dollars it spent on biodefense and pandemic preparedness since 9/11/2001. The United States has no stockpile of the recommended gear, no early diagnostic test, no vaccine and no drug for Ebola even though Ebola was put into the highest threat category (Category A, Tier 1):  "the HHS Secretary has determined that the biological agents and toxins listed in this section have the potential to pose a severe threat to public health and safety..."

DHHS could redeem itself by by taking some of its allotment and spending it on what Americans truly need and want. Why do Americans pay the salary of an Assistant DHHS Secretary for Preparedness  and Response?  Dr. Nicole Lurie, please get off your Rear, Admiral (in the Public Health Service) and start making Ebola vaccines with those $440 million manufacturing facilities we paid for!

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