News / Asia

Mongolia Receives First Batch of Swine Flu Vaccines

A guard walks inside the entrance of WHO headquarters in Geneva (2009 file photo)
A guard walks inside the entrance of WHO headquarters in Geneva (2009 file photo)
Lisa Schlein

The World Health Organization says Mongolia became the first developing country to receive doses of donated H1N1 swine flu vaccines.  A WHO spokeswoman tells VOA more vaccines will be distributed for use in 95 poor countries during the next few months. 

The World Health Organization has divided the 95 developing countries into three groups.  Mongolia is the first country in the first group of countries to receive the H1N1 vaccine donations.

WHO spokeswoman Nyka Alexander tells VOA a country must have measures in place for distributing the vaccine before it can become eligible to receive it. 

"There is a whole stack of logistical issues behind that.  But, we are very happy that the campaign has begun, the first arrivals have begun.  The deployment has been going on for many, many months now.  But, the actual first arrival of vaccines happened today," she said.

Alexander says the vaccines will be shipped to all of the first group of 35 countries within the next month.  She says the World Health Organization is not releasing the names of the countries yet because the logistics of distribution keep changing. 

"So, for now, we are just saying that the three countries that seem closest to receiving-well Mongolia, which did receive," she said. "Azerbaijan, which should receive within a few days and Afghanistan as well, looks pretty likely to be next on our list, next of the countries able to receive.  So, there is that.  The other countries on this first cluster of 35, there are several in our Western Pacific region and there are also Pacific island countries." 

She says health care workers will be the first to be immunized, followed by people most at risk, such as pregnant women and very young children. 

Western European countries are trying to unload surplus stocks of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine.  Countries such as France, Spain, Germany and Switzerland find they are stuck with too much of the vaccine because of low public demand for the flu shots.

Alexander says the World Health Organization is not involved in any of the discussions going on between governments selling and purchasing the vaccines.

"However, if any of these countries with excess capacity wish to donate further vaccine to WHO, of course we would welcome that because there are countries that are still seeking vaccines.  We have not with the most recent, in the past couple of weeks, we have not received any new commitments," she said.  

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the World Health Organization has received pledges of 190 million doses of vaccine from 14 countries, which also includes pledges of money.  Alexander says the money is important because that pays for the distribution of the vaccine to people who need it.
 

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