France wants to sell millions of surplus flu shots

PARIS (Reuters) - France is looking to sell millions of surplus vaccines for the H1N1 flu strain after ordering many more shots than it actually needed, officials said on Sunday.

The Health Ministry said in a statement it had originally bought 94 million individual vaccinations against the H1N1 virus at a cost of 869 million euros ($1.25 billion), thinking that everyone would need two jabs for immunity against the illness.

Doctors now say a single vaccination is sufficient, meaning that France, with a population of some 65 million, has a massive oversupply that it is looking to sell on.

The Health Ministry confirmed reports in Sunday’s Le Parisien daily that it had already sold 300,000 shots to Qatar and is set to sell some two million more to Egypt.

“We are in contact with other countries, notably Ukraine and Mexico,” the ministry said in a statement, without providing any financial details.

Le Parisen newspaper said France was looking to sell its stock at the price it paid for it -- between 6.25 euros to 10 euros depending on the product.

France bought vaccinations from Sanofi-Pasteur, a unit of Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis and Baxter International).

Some five million people in France have so far been vaccinated against H1N1, health officials say.

The flu virus has killed an estimated 198 people on mainland France, according to data released on December 29, but doctors have said new infections have fallen sharply in recent weeks.

Reporting by Crispian Balmer; Editing by Louise Ireland