HHS to acquire new anthrax vaccine by 2017

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services recently outlined plans to acquire a new anthrax vaccine no later than the 2017 budget year.

An anthrax vaccine, which must be ready for large-scale acquisition, was included in HHS's implementation plan for a national health preparedness initiative, according to GovExec.com.

"We have four candidates that are in development right now, and the trajectory for being able to purchase those would fall between 2014 and 2018," Robin Robinson, the head of the Biomedical Advanced Research Projects Authority, said, GovExec.com reports.

A vaccine that finishes the development phase in that time might win government approval to be distributed in a crisis, but full licensure could take much longer. Robinson said in addition to the four candidates, two other vaccines are in consideration.

The federal government has hoped for years to develop a successor to BioThrax, the only U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved anthrax vaccine. A new version, Robinson said, could potentially be stored at room temperature in the Strategic National Stockpile for up to a decade.

"It's an expensive undertaking but it's also risky, which is why we have a number of different candidates," Robinson said, GovExec.com reports.

Separate research activities are concurrently being undertaken to increase the effectiveness of current anthrax treatments. By adding adjuvants, researchers hope to enhance the current vaccine's performance and reduce the doses needed for it to be effective.