Japanese co. to supply U.S. with smallpox vaccine

A research institute in Kumamoto, Japan, has announced that it has reached an agreement with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to produce a smallpox vaccine.

According to the Chemo-Sero Therapeutic Research Institute, which produces several kinds of vaccines, the U.S. government has agreed to pay up to $34 million over a five year period for the vaccine. The money is the equivalent of 10 percent of the institute’s annual sales, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The Chemo-Sero Therapeutic Research Institute first created the vaccine 40 years ago, but stopped production after the World Health Organization declared smallpox eradicated.

As part of government efforts to protect against a possible attack using a weaponized version of the disease, the institute continued to cultivate a strain of smallpox that could be used for the preparation of a vaccine.

In 2004, the U.S. government decided to store enough smallpox vaccine to inoculate its entire population in the case of a bioterrorist attack.

The U.S. government, apparently valuing the low incidence of the vaccine’s side effects, agreed to cover the cost of its clinical trials in development, Yomiuri Shimbun reports.

A U.S. expert recently recommended that the world’s remaining supply of smallpox be eliminated, calling the conflict over it a “diplomatic train wreck.”