The World Health Organization (WHO) called today for "immediate and sustained action and funding" to increase the world's influenza vaccine resources in its newly released Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan to Increase Vaccine Supply. More than 120 scientific experts from national immunization programs, regulatory agencies, scientists and vaccine manufacturers developed the plan. The Action Plan identifies and prioritizes solutions for reducing potential gaps in the world's pandemic flu vaccine supply, including:
*An increase in seasonal flu vaccine use to protect individuals against seasonal flu and at the same use the increased demand to stimulate manufacturers to produce more vaccine;
*An increase in vaccine production capacity through measures such as improving vaccine production yields and building new manufacturing plants; and
*Further research and development to design more effective vaccines and to produce vaccines more efficiently and quickly.
Experts estimate that by 2008-2009, the production of pandemic flu vaccine will not exceed 2.34 billion doses a year. The production capacity currently for seasonal flu vaccine now stands at 350 million doses, far short of the manufacturing capacity needed to vaccinate the world's 6 billion people.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt called WHO's plan a "significant step forward" in the global effort to prepare for a flu pandemic. The number of avian flu cases in humans has more than doubled to over 250 cases in 10 countries, and more than half of those individuals infected have died, Leavitt said.