When affluent nations scrambled to get in the front of the line last year for the first shipments of swine flu vaccine, the World Health Organization had been hoping to snare a significant portion of the initial vaccine supply for poor nations that couldn't cover the tab for their citizens.
But things didn't work out very well for the poorer countries. Only two out of 95 countries that had pleaded for vaccine supplies--Azerbaijan and Mongolia--have received any. That's far fewer than the 14 countries the WHO had aimed for early on. And now, while a number of wealthy countries are trying to send back unused vaccine, many developing nations are still facing the spread of the virus without a vaccine to defend themselves.
The transfer "turns out to be an incredibly difficult logistical action," Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO's chief of pandemic influenza, tells the New York Times. "It's a mammoth effort by an awful lot of people and organizations and countries but holy-moly, it's a very complex operation."
It's also a dramatic lesson for some vaccine experts.
"If we'd been confronted with H5N1 (the much more lethal avian flu), we'd be completely caught with our pants down," says Dr. David Fedson, a pandemic expert and former medical director for Aventis-Pasteur vaccines. "I don't think any nation got it right."
- here's the article from the New York Times