Last night, ABC News aired a made-for-television movie, Fatal Contact: Bird Flu in America, a fictitious account of what might happen if the Bird Flu hits the United States. While some decried ABC News use of scare tactics, this is a serious issue and according to a recent article in The Washington Post, manufacturers are vulnerable when you consider that many factories source materials from all over the globe.
One member of the NAM, sanofi pasteur, is working to make sure any avian flu outbreak remains what was seen yesterday–the work of fiction on television. sanofi pasteur is the largest company in the world devoted entirely to human vaccines. In 2005, sanofi pasteur produced more than a billion doses of vaccine, enough to vaccinate 500 million people around the world.
They have a proud history of fighting disease as well. Their vaccines saved 90 million lives during Brazil’s meningitis epidemic in 1974; in 1995 their vaccines were used to inoculate Russians against diphtheria; in Spain they were used to combat a meningitis epidemic in 1997/8; in 1999 they were used to control a European influenza epidemic and in the U.S., in 2000, sanofi pasteur’s products helped deflect a meningitis epidemic.
According to a recent press release, the company signed in September 2005 with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to produce a stockpile of the H5N1 “bird flu” vaccine valued at $100 million.
It is not generally known that the company is the first to have a bird flu vaccine and that, under government contract, they have quietly produced 35,000,000 units of this vaccine. But such is the case for many manufacturers–who often work quietly to ensure that our standard of living improves each year through greater emphasis on research and development and innovation.