Regional stockpiles could aid Europe in event of bioattack

A plan to ensure Europe is prepared for a biologic attack has been laid out by Allen Shofe, senior vice president of public affairs at Emergent BioSoloutions, as part of the Security & Defence Agenda's "Raising Biopreparedness Levels in Europe" report.

Shofe said that the biggest problem in preparing Europe for an attack is the overall lack of a plan that includes detection, diagnostics and preparation as well as preparations for delivery of medical countermeasures.

Shofe pointed to the U.S. system of preparation, noting that it was not perfect but had the benefit of 10 years and billions of dollars of planning. He called the U.S. plan a more comprehensive bioterrorism preparedness system.

A topic of concern, Shofe said, was the complexity that existed in the transatlantic drug-licensing system, citing the only-FDA approved anthrax vaccine in the United States, which is hindered in Europe by the complexity of the transatlantic licensing system.

An emergency authorisation system is needed, Shofe said, to avoid lack of availability of just such countermeasures during times of emergency. A public private partnership system to address this, similar to one used in the U.S., is actively being promoted within many European governments, Shofe said.

Shofe also pushed a regional stockpiling system within Europe, suggesting that a Baltic stockpile, Nordic stockpile and so on would be of great import and would aid in covering countries that have not expressed a desire to form their own stockpiles.

The stockpile is also important, Shofe said, because no government outside of the U.S. currently requires restrictions on pathogens sent through the mail, citing an incident in Canada when a dangerous plague pathogen sample was sent through the mail. Shofe said that, prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, only 570 scientists worked with dangerous pathogens in the U.S. That number is now at approximately 14,000. This increase in the study of pathogens only adds to the vital importance of a stockpile, Shofe said.

A global stockpile is also a possibility, which would be possible for the Untied States under Homeland Security Directive 21. That directive, issued in October 2007, allows the U.S. to share its stockpile resources with allies. Since 2007, however, no government has taken advantage of the directive.