Bioterror vaccine stockpile strategy called into question

A member of the House Intelligence Committee has called the Obama administration into question over whether the nation's anthrax and smallpox vaccine efforts are slowing down due to cost and mismanagement.

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-N.C.) asked about the viability of the Strategic National Stockpile in a May 10 letter to Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Myrick questioned the refusal by the HHS to commit to long-term vaccine procurement and said that the department may not be taking advantage of advances in smallpox vaccine technology, GSN reports.

Myrick also said that searching for additional anthrax antitoxin products while already having set Project BioShield procurement contracts could slow the stockpiling and acquisition of the vaccine.

Bob Kadlec, the former biodefense advisor to the George W. Bush administration, questioned if the Obama administration's refusal to position truckload caches of emergency biodefense supplies in Chicago before the NATO summit was an indication of a slowing effort to stockpile vaccines.

"For some in the administration, (bioterrorism is) not a concern," Kadlec said, according to GSN. "Either we have to take this stuff seriously, or not. Some people believe that bioterror isn't a threat."

Kadlec said that anthrax and smallpox are still major biological threats and that he is concerned with al-Qaeda and North Korea's biological attack capability.