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The World Health Organization must ensure equal access to affordable vaccines for developing countries in the event of a global influenza pandemic, according to an editorial in The Lancet.

Current manufacturing capacity can only produce 500 million doses of pandemic vaccine — nowhere near the 6.2 billion doses that will be needed to protect the global population, says the editorial.

It argues that, in a pandemic, industrialised countries will have access to the limited supply of vaccines while the developing world will be caught short.

Indonesia's decision to provide a US pharmaceutical company with H5N1 virus samples in exchange for technology to manufacture a vaccine goes against the current World Health Organization's virus-sharing system. But if it helps guarantee an affordable vaccine for the country, the decision is understandable, says the editorial.

The controversy may also force the world to address the inequity between developed and developing countries in vaccine availability and accessibility.

Link to full article in The Lancet*

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