Background: The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) plays a critical role in bolstering public confidence in vaccines and the vaccine review process. An important tool for enhancing transparency and public trust is the FDA's Vaccine and Biological Related Products Advisory Committee (VRBPAC), a group of external experts that advises on scientific issues related to the licensure of vaccines. Objective: To analyze key features of VRBPAC meetings convened over 20 years; estimate the probability of advisory committee review of newly approved vaccines, focusing on vaccines targeting emerging diseases; and examine the speed of and variance in approval times as a function of VRBPAC review. Methods: Cross-sectional study of VRBPAC meetings convened and new vaccine licensure applications approved between January 1, 2000, and December 31, 2019. We analyzed the frequency of VRBPAC meetings and sessions; the percentage of newly licensed vaccines reviewed by VRBPAC; and the number of days between the submission of the licensure application and the date of FDA approval. Results: Between 2000 and 2019, VRBPAC convened for a mean of 4.1 sessions per year. One-quarter of sessions was devoted to the review of specific vaccine products. During the same period, 44 new vaccine licensures were approved, 20% of which were for vaccines targeting emerging diseases. Almost half (48%) of successful new vaccine applications were reviewed by VRBPAC (n=21), a rate lower than for therapeutic applications. Among new applications targeting emerging diseases, 29% of non-influenza vaccines were reviewed by VRBPAC. There was no difference in the median time to approval as a function of VRBPAC review (364 days with VRBAC review vs. 365 days with no review, p=0.870). Conclusion: The FDA has convened VRBPAC for reviews of about half of its vaccine products, less frequently for vaccines against non-influenza emerging diseases. There is considerable scope for the FDA to increase VRBPAC engagement in the vaccine review process.
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