In a perfect world the planet's leading pharmaceutical companies could produce 4.9 billion H1N1 swine flu vaccinations over the course of the next year. This is the World Health Organization's latest assessment.
WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan met with 30 pharmaceutical companies on Tuesday and briefed reporters on a WHO plan to secure vaccinations for poor countries who lack sufficient infrastructure to fight a possible pandemic.
Meanwhile, U.S. health officials expressed concern that seasonal flu strains are remaining in circulation - an unusual pattern that raises the possibility that the H1N1 virus may trade data with drug-resistant strains that currently reside in the ecology.
WHO officials have confirmed 10,000 cases of H1N1 swine flu globally, with 81 deaths reported.
"Questions remain about whether an H1N1-only vaccine is needed in the near term -- especially if its production cuts the world's supply of immunizations for seasonal flu, which is involved in the deaths of up to 500,000 people a year and causes severe illness in millions," Reuters reported
"There is still so much uncertainty about this virus that it is really premature for us to even make a determination about how many people would appropriately be vaccinated, in what order, how many doses will be required, at what point. All those discussions are still very much under way," U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius said, according to Reuters.
WHO officials said that 480 million vaccines would be available by July 31.
"For influenza A (H1N1), it is estimated that up to 4.9 billion doses could be produced over a 12-month period after the initiation of full-scale production," WHO stated in the Reuters report.
The assumption is that the H1N1 vaccine is as easy to produce it is to produce the seasonal flu vaccine. Additionally, the 4.9 billion figure is the maximum production reach possible over the course of 12 months.