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Healthcare

UPDATE 2-GSK to donate 50 mln doses of H1N1 vaccine to WHO

* Drugmaker sees first shipments to WHO by end of November

* WHO expects to receive all 50 mln doses by late spring

* WHO has list of 95 poorer nations eligible for donations

(Adds WHO spokesman comments, changes dateline to GENEVA)

GENEVA, Nov 10 (Reuters) - British drugmaker GlaxoSmithKline GSK.L has agreed to donate 50 million doses of pandemic H1N1 vaccine to the World Health Organisation for use in developing countries in coming months, the WHO said on Tuesday.

GSK, which makes the Pandemrix H1N1 vaccine being used in pandemic vaccination programmes in Britain and other European countries, said it expected to prepare the first shipments of vaccine to the WHO by the end of November.

“We expect to start receiving it at the end of the month or early December and that the full 50 million will come by the end of spring,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl told a news briefing.

“We hope it is the first of many donations,” he added.

The WHO said it has a list of 95 developing countries eligible to receive donated vaccines, and aimed to secure enough vaccines to cover 10 percent of their populations. Health care workers are deemed top priority for the first batches.

“This is a real gesture of global solidarity towards those who would not be otherwise able to have access to the vaccine,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said in a statement. “WHO will now work to see that these vaccines are distributed to those who need them.”

GSK and Sanofi-Aventis SASY.PA are among some 25 companies producing pandemic vaccine and other drugmakers including Switzerland's Roche Holding ROG.VX are making antivirals for use as a frontline H1N1 drug.

The WHO has repeatedly said the H1N1 vaccines being produced are safe. Hartl told journalists in Geneva that young children, because they are so vulnerable to extreme symptoms from the pandemic flu, ought to be protected.

“The trade-off or the balance between risk and benefit for using an H1N1 vaccine, we believe, falls for the moment very much on the side of benefit,” the spokesman said.

Staff at the WHO’s Geneva headquarters have not so far been vaccinated for H1N1 in an organised campaign, though medical personnel going on mission would be seen as a priority to get the protection, he said. (Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay and Laura MacInnis in Geneva and Kate Kelland in London)

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