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Nordic flu pandemic plans

Jul 13, 2005

“Sooner or later, a major influenza epidemic, a so-called pandemic, will hit the world. The Nordic Region is tightening up its emergency response plans. Norway and Finland have made the greatest progress, with millions of doses of medicine already in stock. Sweden and Denmark lag behind,” Svenska Dagbladet reports today.

Sweden has a some medicine in stock and is in the process of buying more - from thousands of doses to hundreds of thousands.

Last week, 1.2 million doses of the influenza medicine Tamiflu were added to the Norwegian store in Oslo. Added to the 200,000 doses already in stock, the Norwegian Ministry of Health and Social Affairs now believes that the acute need is covered.

Finland has added a further 1.3 million doses to the 28,000 already in stock.

The medicine alleviates and relieves influenza symptoms an actual vaccine is a different matter altogether. If a pandemic does break out, it will not be a ‘normal’ flu but a virus that the human immune system does not recognise. Vaccine producers have to isolate the virus and then produce the actual vaccine, a process that takes about six months.

At first, there will be a shortage of vaccines and the authorities will have to prioritise. In Sweden, the most vulnerable groups – those that might be affected by complications or death – will be treated first, followed by health and care staff.

The Norwegian authorities have bought themselves a place in the queue at one of the vaccine producers to make sure the country will receive vaccine as soon as possible in the event of a pandemic. Sweden has not guaranteed itself a place in the queue yet but may consider this option.