Poorer nations to get donated swine flu vaccine

GENEVA: About 100 developing countries will receive international donations of swine flu vaccines,

maybe as soon as November,

a World Health Organisation

official said on Monday.

“The director general of WHO will approve most likely today a list of countries for the donations,” said Marie-Paule Kieny, who heads the WHO’s vaccine research unit. “The list will include about 100 countries,” she told journalists. “We are trying to have the first deliveries in November.”

Dozens of millions of doses are being lined up following

offers from pharmaceutical companies as well as a US-led group

of rich nations that have pledged

to release 10 percent of their vaccine purchases for poor nations.

It will include about 150 million doses from two makers Sanofi-Aventis and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), as well as an as yet unspecified amount from a third supplier, Medimmune, in the form of

a nasal spray and the rich nation stocks, Kieny said.

The donations to counter the threat from the flu pandemic

that emerged in April would be directed to low and some middle income countries.

The deliveries should target about two per cent of the population there over the next four or five months, beginning with health workers and followed by other vulnerable groups, she added.

Kieny also said global influenza A(H1N1) vaccine production should be higher than feared a few weeks ago, although she did not change the overall production capacity of about three billion doses estimated by the WHO last month.

“We have good news. Although it seems the yields with the latest vaccine viruses provided to the manufacturers... are not as good as with seasonal flu, there has been a marked increase in the yields,” she explained. “We are reaching a situation where availability of vaccine will be higher than what was feared a few weeks ago.”

Just two weeks ago, WHO chief Margaret Chan had cut the

estimated global production

capacity from five billion doses

to three billion a year, mainly

due to poorer than expected yields from “seed virus” strains used to make the vaccine.

Kieny reiterated that just one dose was sufficient to provide immunity and insisted that there was no reason to doubt the safety of the swine flu vaccines approved by regulators or their ingredients.

After 100,000 vaccinations in China, just one in 1,000 recipients developed “mild” side-effects such as a pain in the arm after the jab or a bout of fever, according to the WHO. The proportion so far was “actually quite low,” said Kieny.

The UN health agency had

already announced plans to

supply developing nations with

the vaccines they often cannot

afford to buy, and the donations,

in recent months.

But it has gradually increased the number of countries targeted.

The agency’s group of

independent experts on immunisation, known as SAGE, is due to hold its regular meeting on October 27 to 29, partly to discuss A(H1N1) vaccinations.