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WHO eyes November flu vaccine shipment to poor nations

October 12, 2009
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The World Health Organization hopes to begin shipping 60 million doses of swine flu vaccine to poor countries in November as part of an effort to protect their fragile health systems from the pandemic, according to the Associated Press. WHO wants to provide doctors and nurses in about 100 countries with vaccines over the coming four to five months, using a stockpile provided by drug companies and donor countries, said vaccine chief Marie-Paule Kieny. WHO has warned that poor countries risk being overwhelmed as health workers fall ill and are unable to care for patients with other diseases. Some spare doses could also be used to protect vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and those with lowered immune systems, but further donations are still required, she said. So far, GlaxoSmithKline PLC and Sanofi-Aventis SA have pledged 150 million doses to WHO, while about a dozen developed countries including the United States have said they will set aside 10 percent of their supply for poor nations. That falls far short of covering everyone who may need vaccine from WHO. The health body says that figure may reach 3 billion because many governments can''t afford to buy it. About 4,500 people are known to have died from the disease since the outbreak began in April, according to WHO.

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