Company Suing Government over Vaccine Contract

Here’s a bit of a “man-bites-dog” story (i.e., a story that’s interesting in part because it involves a reversal of a more common story-line).
The biotech firm, Vaxgen, is “pursuing legal remedies” after the U.S. government (in particular, the Department of Health and Human Services) apparently changed the requirements in a contract to develop a new anthrax vaccine. HHS is apparently asking for further human tests (or perhaps, depending on whose story you believe, asking for tests what were originally scheduled to be conducted after delivery of the product to be done before delivery & payment).

Here are a couple of different versions of the story:

Two issues jump out as reasons why VaxGen must be treading very carefully here.
First, the tests at issue are tests to determine (or further certify) the safety of the new vaccine for use in humans. VaxGen will want to make very, very clear that it’s not resisting efforts to ensure that their product is safe.
Second is the issue of patriotism. I’m sure VaxGen is painfully aware that the programme funding their project is “Project BioShield,” part of the US government’s effort at fighting bio-terrorism. It wouldn’t be surprising to see VaxGen’s actions characterized as unpatriotic, uncooperative, etc…despite the fact that it’s the government, not them, that changed the rules of the game. Question: should it matter (to our ethical evaluation of this situation) that the product being contracted for is an anthrax vaccine, rather than desktop computers or snowplows?

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