Page last updated at 11:01 GMT, Friday, 15 May 2009 12:01 UK

Deal on 90m UK swine flu vaccines

Vaccine
Enough flu vaccine will be available for everyone in a pandemic

The UK government has signed a deal to secure up to 90m doses of H1N1 flu (swine flu) vaccine by December.

Health Secretary Alan Johnson said Baxter and GlaxoSmithKline will begin production as soon as possible.

The move will speed up access to the vaccine which will be available regardless of whether a pandemic is officially declared.

The number of confirmed swine flu cases worldwide has risen by more than 1,000 in 24 hours to reach a total of 7,520.

The World Health Organization said 65 people have now died from the virus.

Agreements were already in place to ensure two doses of vaccine to provide immunity against the virus for everyone in the UK - but only once a pandemic was underway.

Ministers announced the updated deal as warnings were issued about unlicensed websites selling the antiviral drug tamiflu to worried members of the public.

These additional arrangements provide the opportunity by December this year to have enough pre-pandemic vaccine to protect at least half of the population from swine flu
Health Secretary, Alan Johnson

MarkMonitor found 52 sites selling the antiviral drug but only one carried the UK pharmacy logo, it said.

The sites were set up at the height of the media coverage in late April.

In the UK, the government has secured 50m doses of tamiflu and the alternative antiviral drug relenza.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said they had enough antivirals to cover 80% of the population and those who needed them would get them.

"If people do want to buy medicines over the internet, we urge them to consult their GP first and ensure that the website is operated from a registered pharmacy premises."

Potential

Secretary of State for Health, Alan Johnson said the localised cases of swine flu in the UK have so far been mild.

"Our strategy of containing the spread with antivirals appears to have been effective in reducing symptoms and preventing further spread of infection.

"Scientists tell us that as yet we don't know enough about this novel strain, or whether it's likely to mutate, but that this virus has the potential to become a pandemic and we can't predict how serious that would be.

"These additional arrangements provide the opportunity by December this year to have enough pre-pandemic vaccine to protect at least half of the population from swine flu.

"This will however depend on when and if the manufacturers switched from seasonal to H1N1 pandemic specific vaccine production at a time after Phase 6 is declared by the World Health Organisation, as this will take precedence over pre-pandemic contracts."

Charlie Abrahams, vice president, of MarkMonitor, who work with pharmaceutical companies on brand protection, said people who ran internet scams had been "very nimble" in setting up fake websites to sell tamiflu.

He added that government stockpiles meant those who needed it would get it.

"Self-prescribing is never a good thing to do."

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