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Pandemic Flu Priorities Lacking in One-Third of Countries

Too much priority given to children despite recommendations to contrary

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 18 (HealthDay News) -- The World Health Organization has established preparedness guidelines in the event of an outbreak of pandemic influenza, but only about 70 percent of nations have prioritized who would receive vaccines and drugs in the event of an outbreak, according to a study published in the October issue of PLoS Medicine.

Lori Uscher-Pines, of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, and colleagues analyzed the pandemic preparedness plans of 45 developed and developing countries, a sample that represents all of the world's regions.

Only half of the countries had established guidelines for who would have priority to receive antiviral drugs, and only 62 percent established priority groups for influenza vaccination. Forty-two percent prioritized both antiviral drugs and vaccination. Of those countries that established priorities for vaccination, almost half prioritized children, despite World Health Organization guidelines that state there is no evidence that vaccination of children will reduce the spread of an influenza pandemic.

"Prioritization of scarce pharmaceutical resources that could ultimately delay the spread of a pandemic or lower overall incidence is of particular importance to planning at the national level," the authors write. "Because of costs and manufacturing limitations, these critical resources are likely to be scarce and will require evidence-based rationing."

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