Europe is not properly prepared for a flu pandemic and has inadequate supplies of vaccines and antiviral drugs, says an internal European Commission document obtained by the Financial Times.

With avian flu on its borders, the human vaccine situation in the EU is “far from satisfactory”, according to a note presented last Wednesday by Markos Kyprianou, health and consumer protection commissioner, to his colleagues ahead of a meeting of EU health ministers on October 20.

Some member states have reserved all available antiviral drug supplies for years to come, leaving countries that may be first hit by the disease without any access to drugs, it adds.

The news comes as the EU sent veterinary experts and scientists to Turkey and Romania, the first two European countries to register an outbreak. At an emergency meeting of national vets in Brussels on Friday, member states were advised to keep poultry isolated from migrating birds.

The internal EU document says 16 of the 25 members have informed Brussels about their supplies of antiviral drugs, to be used if avian flu jumps to humans. There are 10m doses in the EU and European Economic Area (Norway, Iceland and Liechtenstein), and a further 36m to be delivered by the end of 2007 enough for about 10 per cent of the EU population, against World Health Organisation recommendations for 25 per cent coverage.

The report said: “There are complaints from member states (and third countries) that orders from some countries have reserved all manufacturing capacity for several years to come, leaving no possibilities for others who may be hit first.”

It also said the situation was “far from satisfactory”, for pandemic vaccines. “Some member states have concluded advanced purchase agreements for the H5N1 virus vaccine”.

The EU warnings of capacity shortfalls will increase pressure on Roche, sole distributor of Tamiflu the principal flu antiviral drug as Cipla, an Indian drugs company, has said it is beginning to make a generic version in defiance of patent laws.

However, a study in the scientific journal Nature next week says resistance to Tamiflu has appeared in a girl with the H5N1 bird flu strain.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2022. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window) CommentsJump to comments section

Follow the topics in this article


Comments have not been enabled for this article.