Sanofi-Aventis is to donate 100 million doses of influenza vaccine to the World Health Organisation to help developing countries face the swine flu pandemic.

The announcement came at the Pacific Health Summit in Seattle, where Sanofi-Aventis Chief Executive Christopher Viehbacher backed the WHO’s call for action to fight the pandemic and for industry and health authorities to “pool our collective strengths” and take responsibility to save millions of lives.

“The emerging A(H1N1) and A(H5N1) influenza viruses are currently present in many countries including some of the poorest regions of the world. This flexible donation aims to help the WHIO address the needs of these most vulnerable populations,” said Viehbacher.

The company will reserve 10% of its vaccine output for the WHO once production begins. In the event that Sanofi-Aventis’ vaccine division Sanofi-Pasteur’s manufacturing facilities become fully committed to the production of pandemic vaccine, the company will also supply this vaccine under a tiered-pricing policy for developing countries.

“The future of our industry is linked to the healthcare solutions that will be found for emerging countries… By pooling our collective strengths as well as our dedication and our motivation, we can save millions of lives,” Viehbacher said.

The WHO welcomed Sanofi’s donation and said it will ensure the vaccine “gets to groups who otherwise would have no access to pandemic vaccines”.

“It is gratifying that vaccine manufacturers are demonstrating their solidarity with WHO in protecting the health of the world’s poorer people: influenza knows no boundaries and so to protect people in one country is to protect us all,” the WHO said in a statement.