France has joined other European countries in selling off millions of its emergency swine flu vaccines after buying far more than it needed to fight the outbreak, the government said Sunday.
"We started with a plan for two-dose vaccinations but since one dose is sufficient we can start to re-sell part of the stock," a French health ministry official told AFP.
Like some other European countries, France has witnessed less demand than expected after spending 869 million euros (1.25 billion dollars) on vaccines for the A(H1N1) flu virus.
It bought 94 million doses, almost one and a half for every member of the population, but so far only about five million people in France are recorded as having been vaccinated since the programme launched in October.
France took the decision to sell some of its stock after European medical authorities said that a one-off vaccination was enough to protect against the virus.
The ministry said Qatar had already bought 300,000 doses from France and Egypt was negotiating to buy two million. France is also in discussions with Mexico and Ukraine, it said.
Germany also said last month it was looking to sell off vaccines even though its full order of 50 million doses was not due to be delivered until March. Only about five percent of the population had been vaccinated in Germany.
A health ministry senior official in the German state of Thuringia, Hartmut Schubert, said there had been requests from Afghanistan and Eastern European countries including Ukraine, where France is now competing with it.
The Netherlands announced in November that it would sell 19 million of the 34 million vaccines it ordered to countries with a shortage of them, judging its own flu scare to be past.
Spain's Health Minister Trinidad Jimenez was quoted as saying in the daily El Pais on Sunday that it expects to buy a total of about 13 million doses, little more than a third of its earlier estimate of 37 million.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) said last month that A(H1N1) was reaching a peak in much of western Europe, as the disease progressed into central Europe and through parts of Asia.
German authorities said Moldova, Kosovo, Mongolia and the Maldives had approached them asking for vaccines to be donated as aid.
The WHO said last week that swine flu has killed at least 12,220 people worldwide, the biggest share of them in the United States and Canada, but had peaked and was declining in North America.