The World Health Organisation has moved ahead with its plans to create a global stockpile of vaccine for the H5N1 avian influenza virus, following agreement by GlaxoSmithKline, Omnivest of Hungary, Baxter and sanofi pasteur to make some of their H5N1 vaccine available.

“This is anther significant step towards creating a global resource to help the world and especially to help developing countries in case of a major outbreak of H5N1 avian influenza,” said WHO Director-General, Dr Margaret Chan.

Operational planning for the stockpile, including how and under which conditions it will be deployed, as well as regulatory aspects of the vaccine, is still to be finalised.

The WHO is also taking other precautionary measures to prepare for a potential influenza pandemic including: rapid containment plans to stop a pandemic using public health measures – such as isolation, quarantine of contacts, personal hygiene and social distancing – and antivirals; and assistance to countries to increase vaccine production capacity, in particular in the areas of research and promoting technology transfer to developing countries.