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WHO Reports Promising Results on Bird Flu Vaccines
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The world has made "encouraging progress" in developing vaccines against a potential bird flu pandemic, the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Friday.


Currently 16 manufacturers from 10 countries are developing prototype pandemic influenza vaccines against the deadly H5N1 avian influenza virus, the UN agency said in a statement.


At present, more then 40 clinical trials have been completed or are ongoing, and "all vaccines were safe and well tolerated in all age groups tested," it said.


According to the statement, a two-day expert meeting on advances in pandemic influenza vaccine development has just ended in Geneva, where the WHO is based.


"For the first time, results presented at the meeting have convincingly demonstrated that vaccination with newly developed avian influenza vaccines can bring about a potentially protective immune response against strains of H5N1 virus," it said.


"Some of the vaccines work with low doses of antigen, which means that significantly more vaccine doses can be available in case of a pandemic," the WHO added.


This was a third such meeting in just two years and its objectives were to review progress in the development of candidate vaccines against pandemic influenza viruses and to reach consensus on future priority activities.


More than 100 influenza vaccine experts from academia, national and regional public health institutions, the pharmaceutical industry and regulatory bodies throughout the world attended the meeting convened by the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research and the WHO Global Influenza Program.


In spite of the encouraging progress noted at the meeting, the WHO stressed that the world still lacks the manufacturing capacity to meet potential global pandemic influenza vaccine demand.


The world's current vaccine manufacturing capacity is estimated at less than 400 million doses per year of trivalent seasonal influenza vaccine.


In response to this challenge, the WHO launched in 2006 the Global pandemic influenza action plan to increase vaccine supply, a US$10-billion effort over 10 years.


One of its aims is to enable developing countries to establish their own influenza vaccine production facilities through transfer of technology, providing them with the most sustainable and reliable response to the threat of pandemic influenza.


(Xinhua News Agency February 17, 2007)

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