Bio-Response Report Card highlights countermeasures success

The Bio-Response Report Card recently released by the WMD Center, an end-to-end assessment of the government's capability to respond to a biological attack, highlighted successes in the nation's countermeasures stockpile.

No "A's" were handed out in the evaluation of the government's capacity in seven key areas ranging from detection and diagnosis to environmental clean up in both small- and large-scale attacks. In the area of medical countermeasure availability, which was graded "B" for small-scale attacks, the report card noted positively that smallpox has been removed as a large-scale threat because of an adequate supply of over 300 million doses of a Food and Drug Administration licensed smallpox vaccine in the Strategic National Stockpile.

The smallpox vaccine Imvamune is the first vaccine successfully developed under Project BioShield.

In a statement released last week, Bavarian Nordic president and CEO Anders Hedegaard applauded the WMD Center's report card that highlighted Imvamune as a success story.

"We are proud that the experts at the WMD Center believe that our partnership with the U.S. government is a biodefense success story," Hedegaard said. "In addition to biodefense, we also have a strong public-private partnership with the National Cancer Institute. We look forward to maintaining and growing these partnerships to combat bioterrorism and advance public health."

Under a contract with the Biomedical Advanced Research Development Authority, Bavarian Nordic will deliver 20 million doses of Imvamune with an option for an additional 60 million doses. Four million doses will be delivered in 2011.

The report also said that current stockpiles of medical countermeasures could limit the impact of a small-scale anthrax at­tack. Inhalation anthrax, which is more deadly than smallpox, is believed to be treated with oral antibiotics if taken within 48 hours of exposure. The SNS maintains a supply of antibiotics to provide 60 million individuals with a 60 day course of treatment. The SNS also has sufficient FDA-approved anthrax vaccines for approximately 4.4 million adults.

The government recently announced its acquisition of an additional 44.75 million doses of BioThrax to include in the SNS. The announcement drew praises from lawmakers from Michigan, where the vaccine's manufacturer, Emergent BioSolutions, is located.

“I congratulate Emergent BioSolutions on setting an example – by offering their innovative and unique product to the Centers for Disease Control, they will be able to help provide security and safety to millions of Americans, all the while helping the economy and job growth right here at home in Michigan,” Congressman Bill Huizenga (R-Mich.) said.

“Making sure that we have sufficient stockpiles of Anthrax vaccine is a win-win for the American people,” Congressman Hansen Clarke (D-Mich.) said. “This contract will create jobs here in Michigan and keep our nation prepared against bioterrorism.  It is particularly good news for our military and first responders who bravely put themselves on the front lines to protect our community and need this protecting in response.”

Aside from being maintained in the SNS, BioThrax is used to protect military personnel from the anthrax threat. To date, more than 2.6 million servicemen and women have received the vaccine.

The WMD Center report further said that vaccinating first responder groups would improve local preparedness. In 2009, the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices recommended that first responder organizations may offer their workers voluntary pre-event vaccination.

Through the Bio-Response Report Card, the WMD Center shines a light on gaps that need to be addressed in order to be a better-prepared nation. The authors said that America’s leaders consider the safety and security of citizens to be of highest priority. As our nation faces the threat of biological disasters, a robust preparedness response reduces the consequences and the likelihood of being attacked.

"Strong biodefense capabilities will bring us closer to the day when biological threats, whether natural or man-made, are no longer potential weapons of mass destruction," the authors said.