U.S. Policy Regarding Pandemic-Influenza Vaccines

Source: Julie Somers and Philip Webre, Congressional Budget Office, September 2008

The possibility of an influenza pandemic is cause for concern among policymakers, public health experts, and the world’s populations. Against that prospect, in 2005, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) published a plan that includes a series of measures, first to monitor the spread of disease in the event of a worldwide outbreak and then to facilitate a rapid response. That second step includes developing influenza vaccines and expanding the nation’s capacity for producing influenza vaccine; creating stockpiles of antiviral drugs and other medical supplies (to avert an influenza pandemic or minimize its effects); coordinating federal, state, and local preparations; and planning for public outreach and communications.

HHS’s plan has two specific goals that relate to vaccines. The first goal is to have in place by 2011 domestic production capacity sufficient to supply vaccine to the entire U.S. population within six months of the onset of a pandemic. The second goal is to stockpile enough doses of vaccine to inoculate 20 million people as soon as possible after the onset of a pandemic.

This Congressional Budget Office (CBO) paper, which was prepared at the request of the
Senate Majority Leader, focuses on the government’s role in the vaccine market that stems from HHS’s plan. It provides information on the current state of readiness, the additional expenditures likely to be necessary to achieve HHS’s vaccine-related goals, the expenditures that are likely to be needed to maintain preparedness, and the approaches of other countries as they too face the prospect of an influenza pandemic.

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