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UK to stockpile bird-flu vaccine

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Now is the time to train as a nurse, join the army or make yourself indispensable to the government in some other way. The government has confirmed that it is to stockpile two million shots of the vaccine against the H5N1 strain of bird flu.

It plans to use the drug to protect emergency and medical workers against a global outbreak of the virus, after Indonesian officials confirmed three human fatalities earlier this week, the BBC reports. The cases have prompted concern that the virus can now spread from human to human.

Always ready with a cheery statistic, the World Heath Organisation says that a pandemic of the virus is "inevitable", and says that attempts to contain the virus in Asia have not been successful. A pandemic could cause as many as 50,000 deaths in the UK.

Health Secretary, Patricia Hewitt said in a statement: "I have decided it would be prudent to purchase a limited quantity of H5N1 vaccine which could be used to help protect those that need it most, such as NHS workers. This, alongside the purchase of 14.6 million doses of antivirals and the other public health measures we have in place, will help ensure that the UK continues to be at the forefront of international preparedness for a possible flu pandemic."

She added that the UK would also carry out clinical studies of how the vaccine works against the virus, and how effective it could be.

The government has invited manufacturers of the vaccine to tender for a contract to supply two million doses. ®

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