The World Health Organization (WHO) announced that it is working with vaccine manufacturers to move ahead on plans to create a global stockpile of vaccine for the H5N1 avian influenza virus.
The announcement follows a request by the World Health Assembly in May for WHO to establish an international stockpile of H5N1 vaccine.
WHO has also welcomed the announcement by GlaxoSmithKline that it would contribute to the H5N1 global vaccine stockpile. Omninvest of Hungary, Baxter and sanofi pasteur have also indicated their willingness to make some of their H5N1 vaccine available.
"This is another significant step towards creating a global resource to help the world and especially to help developing countries in case of a major outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza," said Dr Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General.
"WHO welcomes this contribution from the vaccines industry and is also working with countries to develop capacity for the production of influenza vaccines," he added.
Further work is needed on detailed operational planning for the stockpile, including how and under which conditions it will be deployed, as well as regulatory aspects of the vaccine.
Besides developing a stockpile of H5N1 vaccine, other measures being taken by WHO to prepare for a potential influenza pandemic include rapid containment plans to stop a pandemic using public health measures and anti-virals; and assistance to countries to increase vaccine production capacity, including research and promoting the transfer of technology to developing countries.