Several measures must be put in place to ensure an adequate vaccine stockpile in the event of a H5N1 avian influenza pandemic, write Tadataka Yamada, Alice Dautry and Mark Walport in Nature.
H5N1 could kill up to 80 million people, according to recent data models — with 95 per cent of deaths in the developing world.
There have been positive developments, such as H5N1 vaccines with adjuvants that reduce the dose of the vaccine required by four-fold. Thanks to such developments, global vaccine production capacity could rise to 5–6 billion doses over 12 months — a significant boost for the WHO's planned vaccine stockpile.
But intellectual property issues surrounding samples must be resolved, efforts to create a pre-pandemic vaccine stockpile must be coordinated, global surveillance bolstered, and a tiered pricing model established to ensure that everyone benefits, write the authors.
They urge public and private donors to "create a financing facility to help the poorest nations pay for their share of the pandemic flu vaccine".
The authors write that their organisations — the Gates Foundation, Pasteur Institute and Wellcome Trust — will, in the next 18 months, develop a central inventory of funded research activities on human influenza, which will help identify knowledge gaps.