Health Secretary Alan Johnson said a flu pandemic was "one of the most severe risks" facing the country, telling lawmakers that he had signed an agreement to secure the delivery of enough pandemic flu vaccines to cover every citizen.
Experts will formulate the vaccination once the strain of the virus has been identified. Officials said it was impossible to predict when the next pandemic would strike and what form it would take.
The last global flu pandemic — Hong Kong flu — struck in 1968, leading to approximately 1 million deaths worldwide and 80,000 in Britain, said a Department of Health spokeswoman, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with department policy.
"We don't believe an influenza is imminent," the spokeswoman said.
NVDL: Not imminent perhaps, but it is an ongoing 'not-if-but-when' threat. I think this is excellent proactive behaviour on the part of Britain. Unfortunately it's the sort of thing only the wealthier nations can afford right now. I also think changing climate will both exacerbate and accelarate the trend. Migratory birds will begin to move into new areas, and so will this disease, allowing higher levels of opportunism and DNA recombinations.