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WHO chief sees need for seasonal and pandemic jabs

There will likely be a continued need for both seasonal and H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine production, the head of the World Health Organisation said.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said it will be important for pharmaceutical companies to keep making seasonal flu jabs because that more common virus causes severe illness in 2 to 3 million people a year and kills up to 500,000.

“We are moving on two tracks to ensure some security for seasonal vaccine and at the same time kick-starting early scientific work for pandemic vaccine,” Chan said, saying a seed virus to be used in vaccines should be ready by the end of May.

The WHO should make a recommendation “soon” about the best balance for vaccine production, Chan said. Flu vaccine makers include GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis and Baxter International. (Reuters)