Military Biodefense Vaccine Project Begins

An effort to produce its own vaccines and biodefense drugs has been started by the U.S. Defense Department, a government report says.

Construction on a facility to create flu vaccines and specialized medicines to protect military personnel from germ warfare agents began in Florida in late October, the Chicago Tribune reported Tuesday.

The newspaper noted the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is on track to spend billions of dollars to produce the same types of medicines in collaborations with universities and research institutions.

The information is contained in a 112-page report released in 2009, which the newspaper says was not previously published or shared with Congress.

James Petro, a top aide to Assistant Secretary of Defense Andrew Weber, said the Florida facility was required to produce medicines the military could not rely on HHS or others to provide.

"It's about making sure that our men and women in uniform have the protection they need against these threats," Petro said.

The funding for the military's research and manufacturing project was acquired by shifting money away from masks, boots, early warning sensors and other equipment for troops at risk of exposure to biological or chemical weapons, the newspaper said, citing unidentified government documents and defense specialists.

Shifting the funding was a "portfolio management decision" intended to "achieve balance in yielding both medical and physical defense equipment," Petro said.

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