The Government has unveiled plans which would make antiviral drugs available to at least half the population of the UK if a flu pandemic occurred.
Health Secretary Alan Johnson said a future pandemic is one of the “most severe risks currently facing the UK”, and he added that stockpiles of antivirals are being doubled.
A Department of Health spokeswoman said the stockpile of antivirals could be made up of a mixture of Tamiflu and Relenza.
The Government already has enough Tamiflu to cover 25% of the population, and it also has a stockpile of 3.3 million doses of H5N1 pre-pandemic vaccine for healthcare workers.
There are also two “sleeping contracts” with pharmaceutical firms GlaxoSmithKline and Baxter to supply a pandemic flu vaccine for all the UK population once any pandemic strain is identified by the World Health Organisation.
Nearly 15 million courses of antibiotics will also be purchased as part of the initiative, which will be used to help fight complications that could lead to death.
The measures are for a “reasonable worst-case scenario”, which would see between 25% and 50% of the UK population infected with the virus.
Mr Johnson said: “Our planning assumptions are that 25% to 50% of the population may become ill and that, in accordance with previous analysis, between 0.04% and 2.5% of those affected could die.”
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