With a likely "explosion" of swine flu in the coming months, a leading WHO official has urged China to distribute vaccines to needy nations to help contain the disease.
"We would greatly welcome an initiative by the Chinese government to support developing and needy countries in a fair distribution of this vaccine," Shin Young-soo, WHO's regional director for the Western Pacific, said in a statement received late Friday.
Shin's remarks came after Chinese Health Minister Chen Zhu reported on the nation's efforts to develop a vaccine for the A(H1N1) virus at a three-day symposium on swine flu in the Asia-Pacific region.
Shin warned the virus was entering an "acceleration period" and predicted more deaths and more cases as the "pandemic will get worse before the situation gets better."
"Most countries may see a doubling of cases every three to four days for two months until peak transmission is reached," Shin told the symposium Friday.
"At a certain point, there will seem to be an explosion in case numbers. I believe it is very likely that all countries will see community-level transmission by the end of the year."
About 1,800 people have died since the A(H1N1) virus was first uncovered in April, according to the latest update from the WHO issued this week. The vast majority of those deaths have been recorded in the Americas.
The WHO declared a global pandemic in June, the first such worldwide outbreak in 40 years. The UN health agency now says there are confirmed cases in more than 170 countries.
The WHO said earlier this week that countries in the northern hemisphere alone had ordered more than one billion doses of swine flu vaccine, sparking warnings about shortages, given the intense demand and production delays.
A Chinese drug company, Sinovac Biotech, this week announced positive preliminary data from its clinical trials after giving test subjects just one dose of its vaccine.
"We are also very encouraged by preliminary but promising results from the clinical trials of H1N1 vaccine," Shin said of the Chinese vaccine.