May 15, 2009 / 10:16 AM / 10 years ago

WHO chief sees need for seasonal and pandemic jabs

A researcher works on a vaccine for H1N1 flu virus at the Infectious Disease Labratory at the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia May 6, 2009. REUTERS/Tami Chappell

GENEVA (Reuters) - There will likely be a continued need for both seasonal and H1N1 pandemic flu vaccine production, the head of the World Health Organization said on Friday.

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said it will be important for pharmaceutical companies to keep making seasonal flu jabs because that more common virus causes severe illness in 2 to 3 million people a year and kills up to 500,000.

“We are moving on two tracks to ensure some security for seasonal vaccine and at the same time kick-starting early scientific work for pandemic vaccine,” Chan said, saying a seed virus to be used in vaccines should be ready by the end of May.

The WHO should make a recommendation “soon” about the best balance for vaccine production, Chan said. Flu vaccine makers include GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi-Aventis, Novartis and Baxter International.

Reporting by Stephanie Nebehay, Writing by Laura MacInnis

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