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GSK to donate 50 mln doses of H5N1 vaccine to WHO

GlaxoSmithKline Plc. (GSK), Europe's biggest drugmaker, said on Wednesday it would donate 50 million doses of its H5N1 'prepandemic' influenza vaccine to the World Health Organization for distribution to poor countries over a three-year period.

The announcement marks the first tangible step toward the creation of a world stockpile of H5N1 vaccines, a goal endorsed by WHO member countries at the World Health Assembly in May. „This is another 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,” Dr. Margaret Chan, the WHO's director general, said in Seattle, where she announced the donations at the Pacific Health Summit. „WHO welcomes this contribution from the vaccines industry and is also working with countries to develop capacity for the production of influenza vaccines.” Dr. John Oxford, a virologist at London's Queen Mary School of Medicine, called GlaxoSmithKline's announcement „excellent news.” „It's just what we need to reassure countries like Indonesia that they will get something in return from the viruses they provide, which will form the basis of these vaccines,” he said.

GSK's vaccine includes a proprietary adjuvant (immune-stimulating chemical) and in clinical trials has induced a strong immune response at low doses, according to previous company announcements. Last July the company said 80 percent of volunteers showed a good immune response after receiving two 3.8-microgram doses. A typical dose of seasonal flu vaccine contains 15 micrograms of antigen for each of three flu strains. GSK promised that, in addition to its donation, it would provide some of its H5N1 vaccine to the WHO at „preferential” prices for use by countries eligible for assistance from GAVI (the Global Alliance for Vaccines and Immunization), a public-private program that provides vaccines for children in poor countries.

Besides GSK, other vaccine producers - Baxter, Sanofi Pasteur, and Omnivest of Hungary - also have expressed a willingness to provide some doses of H5N1 vaccine to the global stockpile. (