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Dozens of Countries to Receive Swine Flu Vaccine

The World Health Organization says it is stepping up the delivery of millions of doses of H1N1 Swine flu vaccine to dozens of developing countries. WHO says about one dozen African countries will be among the recipients.

The World Health Organization says so far, it has delivered more than four million doses of the H1N1 swine flu vaccine to 17 countries. The stocks are among 180 million doses of the vaccine donated to the WHO from pharmaceutical companies and industrialized countries.

WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl says 95 developing countries have requested the vaccine. And he says in the coming weeks the WHO plans to ship millions of doses to some 25 countries in Africa, Central America and Eastern Europe.

"The countries were identified and the countries then had to express interest themselves," said Hartl. "So, they asked. So, it is their wish to receive the vaccine. And so those countries, which are ready and have expressed the wish, are those that will get it first. So, obviously, there are some countries that are further along then others."

Mongolia, Azerbaijan and Afghanistan were the first three countries to receive donations of H1N1 vaccines. Hartl says Togo, on Thursday, became the first African country to receive the vaccine. He says more African countries will follow, including Nigeria, Kenya and South Africa.

The World Health Organization says nearly 17,000 people in more than 213 countries and territories are confirmed as having died from H1N1 Swine Flu. It says the most active areas of pandemic influenza transmission continue to be in Southeast Asia and West Africa.

WHO says 167 deaths have been confirmed in Africa. Limited data suggests the spread of the pandemic flu virus has not yet peaked in West Africa. And localized outbreaks of the disease recently have been reported in parts of East Africa, particularly in Rwanda.

Hartl says countries have to meet certain criteria before they can become eligible to receive the donations.

"There have to be in place at each country level a national deployment plan that has certain elements in it in order to ensure that when the vaccine arrives in the country, it actually is received properly in cold storage and then distributed properly. So, there were a number of steps that had to be gone through. And, that is also then how quickly a country goes through these steps determines in part how quickly it gets the vaccine," he said.

Hartl says countries will receive enough vaccine to immunize up to 10 percent of the population. That includes health care workers, pregnant women and young people, who are at high risk of getting the disease.

The World Health Organization says it has delivered a first shipment of vaccine to Cuba, which has reported 54 deaths from H1N1, the greatest number in the Caribbean. It says Nigeria, Africa's most populous country, will receive about 2.8 million doses.