Australia Orders Smallpox Vaccine in Case of Attack
Australian national health officials are finalizing contracts with French vaccine maker Aventis-Pasteur for the purchase of 50,000 doses of the smallpox vaccine and have commitments from the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for additional supplies, if necessary. Though a bioterrorist risk to Australia has been assessed as minimal at this point, Commonwealth Chief Medical Officer Richard Smallwood, said the stockpiling is part of the government's $6.2 million commitment to acquire antibiotics, vaccines, antiviral drugs, chemical antidotes and diagnostic tests as part of the nation's emergency response preparedness. The move on the part of the Australian government came following the U.S. plan amid fears following Sept. 11, that smallpox could be developed into a biological weapon by terrorists. Smallwood says the Aventis-Pasteur shipment and additional stock would assure the nation an adequate supply of vaccine to effectively manage an outbreak anywhere among the nation's 20 million people.