DEMAND FOR FLU VACCINES SURGES IN UK AS CONCERNS OVER BIRD FLU GROW

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The UK's Department of Health has met with drug manufacturers to ensure that there will be enough flu vaccines for the estimated 11mn people deemed to be at higher risk in the country. In total, there will be 14mn doses available for this year.

Demand for flu vaccines has soared in the UK this winter as concerns over the possible impact of bird flu develop. The disease has, to date, killed over sixty people in Asia, and experts fear it could still develop into a deadly pandemic. As a result, supplies in the country have dwindled and a contingency reserve of 400,000 doses is almost exhausted.

The elderly and those in poor health are being given priority for the treatments. However, industry observers claim that the incidence of flu in the country is no higher than normal for the season.

The World Health Organisation (WHO) forecasts that in a worst-case scenario, bird flu could kill up to 7.4mn people worldwide. The UK has ordered 14.6mn doses of Roche's anti-flu treatment Tamiflu, which is considered to be the best defense against the virus.