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Flu experts are calling on developing countries to set up seasonal influenza vaccine programmes, partly to boost demand for vaccines so that companies can increase their vaccine production to prepare for pandemics.

A meeting between influenza scientists and policymakers in Italy last week (2–3 July), held to discuss the swine flu — influenza A(H1N1) — pandemic, heard that many developing-country governments are unconvinced that influenza is a major health problem relative to the many other health challenges that their countries face.

But a third of pneumonia deaths in under-twos are down to influenza, said Abdullah Brooks of the International Centre for Diarrhoeal Disease Research in Bangladesh. And pneumonia kills more than two million under-fives a year, according to UN agency UNICEF.

Experts at the meeting said that developing countries should be assessing influenza infection in sick children and considering the impact that such vaccination could have.

It is likely that UNICEF, health charities and rich-nation governments would be asked to foot the bill for vaccine programmes.

As well as improving public health, such programmes could create a more sustainable market for influenza vaccines.

Rino Rappuoli, head of vaccine research at Novartis, says that before the pandemic arose the company had been discussing the need to close vaccine-manufacturing plants because of financial losses.

Link to full article in Nature