GENEVA, July 14 (Xinhua) -- Poor countries will find it difficult to get vaccines for the A/H1N1 flu as the world's manufacturing capacity is limited, the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) said on Tuesday.
"Manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccines is finite and woefully
inadequate for a world of 6.8 billion people, nearly all of whom are susceptible
to infection by this entirely new and highly contagious virus," WHO
director-general Margaret Chan said in Geneva at a meeting on intellectual
property and public health .
"The lion's share of these limited supplies will go to wealthy countries. Again we see the advantage of affluence. Again we see access denied by an inability to pay," Chan said.
In June, the WHO formally announced that the A/H1N1 flu had developed into
a pandemic. So far the virus has caused more than 90,000 infections in some 137
countries and regions, with more than 400 deaths.
WHO experts have concluded that the spread of the new virus is
"unstoppable," therefore all countries need to have access to vaccines, which
are now being produced by related enterprises and will be available as early as
According to Chan, the shortfall in vaccine supplies, in the face of
universal need, "is the result of limited global manufacturing capacity rather
than intellectual property issues."
However, ability to pay, whether at the individual or the national level,
remains a distinct advantage, she said.
"In the field of health, public policy will remain imperfect as long as
access to life-saving interventions is biased in favor of affluence," she said.
WHO experts have suggested that countries should consider a step-wise approach to vaccinate particular groups, notably pregnant women and people with chronic medical conditions, who appear to be at increased risk to the virus.