Officials at the National Institutes of Health said yesterday that a new whooping cough vaccine made by North American Vaccine Inc. of Beltsville appears to be safe.
The results take the company one step closer to being able to market the product.
"We think this is an enormous improvement," said Dr. Charles Lowe, associate director for special projects at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development.
The federal government is interested in finding a substitute for the vaccine now used to fight pertussis, a highly infectious childhood disease also known as whooping cough. That vaccine is responsible for causing brain damage in a small number of children every year.
In 1991, parents of 142 children in the United States asked for compensation from a government fund for damage to their children that they claim was caused by the vaccine. Reactions to the vaccine can range from high fevers to death.
The vaccine made by North American Vaccine has a potential
$200 million market, according to the company. It was invented and patented by doctors at the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. North American Vaccine then obtained the license to produce the vaccine from the government.
The new vaccine must undergo another year of tests to prove it is effective. The company plans to apply then to the Food and Drug Administration for approval to sell the vaccine.
The company's stock closed yesterday at $9.875, up 12.5 cents a share.