Labour donor loses vaccine contract

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Indy Politics

The company at the heart of a row over Labour donors has failed to win a £45.2m government contract for smallpox vaccine, it was announced yesterday.

Powderject Pharmaceuticals, which was awarded a £32m deal last year to supply the vaccine, was passed over for this year's contract. Instead, the Department of Health awarded the deal to one of its major competitors, Aventis Pasteur MSD.

The Government came under fire last year when it emerged that Paul Drayson, the chief executive of Powderject Pharmaceuticals, had made two donations of £50,000 to the Labour Party between July 2001 and January 2002.

However, a National Audit Office report published earlier this year concluded that ministers and officials had not been aware of the donations when they selected the company as its official supplier.

Yesterday, the DoH confirmed that it had followed stringent European Union procurement regulations during this year's selection procedure, by assessing three tenders for the contract.

"The tender bid from Aventis Pasteur MSD was judged to best meet all the required criteria, including technical and scientific requirements as well as providing the best value for money," the department said.

The new contract was part of the Government's plans to strengthen its responses to possible smallpox emergencies. Fears that terrorists would use smallpox in a biological attackhave increased. Vaccine stocks have been increased as part of the DoH's contingency plans to cater for possible emergency situations.

A consultation on its response plans was published last December and the immunisation of frontline workers began in January this year.

"Today's announcement ensures that the UK stockpile of vaccine is substantially increased and means that the UK will no longer need to rely on vaccine produced in the 1970s," the DoH said.