The Government has admitted that any future flu pandemic could last for six months.
But Lord Darzi of Denham said that such a time period would allow drug manufacturers to produce a targeted vaccine.
The health minister was addressing peers in the House of Lords at question time.
He said: “It is very difficult to predict the exact timings of a pandemic. We are not even sure whether we can get a second wave or third wave of a pandemic.
“The first pandemic in 1918 had a second wave and third wave. The last two in 1957 and 1968 also had a second wave.
“We are predicting in our modelling that it will be six months, which will be enough time to create vaccinations with the strain that is infectious in the first pandemic.”
Tory Lord Swinfen had asked whether there would be enough time in the event of a pandemic to produce a vaccine.
And Lord Darzi said the Government had enough stocks of the anti-viral Tamiflu, which is manufactured by Roche, to cover 25% of the population likely to be affected by a pandemic.
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“I believe the correct headline for your article should be ‘Flu pandemic may last two years, with up to three waves, each lasting six months’. While it may be true that the first wave may last six months, a vaccine will not be available until near the end of the six-month period. What does the UK government intend to do to mitigate the impact of the first wave in the meantime? What does the government intend to do if the pandemic flu is ‘Tamiflu-resistant’, as is now being seen in both the US and Canada?” – John Wilcox, Pennsylvania, USA