High hopes are being pinned at a bird flu vaccine being manufactured by the Hungarian government and a private company- Omninvest. Human trials in Hungary have shown the vaccine to work against the H5N1 type of avian influenza, which has killed more than 60 people in Asia.
Even while the vaccine, which produced an immune reaction to the H5N1 strain of the virus when tested on people is at a very early stage of development, several countries have shown interest in buying the experimental bird flu vaccine, which Hungary will license by March, the government said.
According to spokesman Andras Batiz, 'The human trials started it all off, and we are past the first step after that, which means the manufacturing of 5,000 vaccines,' said.
As yet there are no firm orders and up to 25,000 vaccine shots first need to be made to test industrial production. The plant outside of Budapest would need investment to expand its capacity, Batiz said.
India, Indonesia, the Philippines and Russia are considering buying the know-how and setting up factories themselves, he said.
Experts fear that the H5N1 virus is on the verge of undergoing mutation, thus making it easier to spread from birds to humans. In the event of this happening the impact worldwide would be tremendous, experts say. And in the absence of a vaccine or drug against the bird flu, the loss of life would be unprecedented.
A vaccine for the current strain of H5N1 is already made experimentally by U.S. company Chiron Corp and French company Saonfi-Aventis among others. However, it is supposed that a vaccine would provide partial only protection against a pandemic strain of flu and would have to be reformulated to match whatever mutation eventually emerges - a process that would take months
Avian flu has affected the Southeast Asian nations although it is largely limited to poultry and wild-bird populations.