National Biodefense Science Board revising government's countermeasures stockpile

The National Biodefense Science Board, a panel that advises the federal government on biodefense issues, has begun work on a revision of the government's strategy to stockpile medical countermeasures against biological and chemical threats.

Nicole Lurie, the assistant secretary for preparedness and response at the US Department of Health and Human Services, asked the board to take on the task. The last major review issued by the NBSB on government countermeasures was in 2007, CIDRAP News reports.

"We need a new strategy and implementation plan that takes advantage of what we have learned from experience," Lurie said, according to CIDRAP News.

The board started its deliberations during its first meeting of the year in a closed afternoon session. Lurie asked the NBSB in 2011 to explore pediatric anthrax vaccine issues and in October the board recommended that the HHS develop a plan to study the vaccine's use in children before an attack with Bacillus anthracis. The idea has been opposed by some medical professionals and members of the public.

Kathleen Sebelius, the HHS secretary, asked the Presidential Commission for the Study of Bioethical Issues on January 10 to advise on the topic.

"The commission is honored that the secretary has asked for its advice on this important ethical issue," Valerie Bonham, the executive director of the commission, said, according to CIDRAP News.

During the meeting, the NBSB also dealt with housekeeping measures, read a letter from a medical professional concerned by the recent controversial H5N1 transmission studies and heard from an independent technical analyst who was concerned with a weak scientific foundation behind environmental surface testing practices for anthrax.