Australian Medical Association Vice President, Dr Mukesh Haikerwal, has said the Australian Government's decision to purchase sufficient influenza vaccine for the next three seasons is good health planning.
Dr Haikerwal said a guaranteed supply of 50 million units during an influenza pandemic would be enough to provide all Australians with two vaccinations per person.
"Based on historical patterns, influenza pandemics can be expected to occur, on average, three to four times each century, when new virus types emerge and are readily transmitted from person to person," Dr Haikerwal said.
"But these pandemics are unpredictable.
"The Spanish flu killed up to 50 million people worldwide between 1918-19, and the Asian flu caused the death of 70,000 people in 1957-58.
"The Hong Kong flu caused 34,000 deaths in the United States from 1968-69. The virus was first detected in Hong Kong in early 1968 and spread to the United States later that year," Dr Haikerwal said.
Dr Haikerwal said the Government must learn from the experience of previous pandemics.
The SARS outbreak led to the development of the Australia Action Plan for Pandemic Influenza in October 2003. As part of that plan the Federal Government identified the need to ensure an adequate stockpile of anti-viral drugs is available in all states and territories.
"In the event of pandemic there will be people who contract the virus regardless of how widespread a vaccination program is – anti-viral drugs will be critical in treating those people," Dr Haikerwal said.
"Therefore it is important that the Commonwealth Government releases information on whether it has procured these drugs.
"Experts agree that another pandemic is inevitable and possibly imminent.
"However our success in managing this pandemic will involve not only prevention through vaccinations but also effective treatment through the use of anti-viral drugs. " Dr Haikerwal said.