The Department of Health has confirmed an advanced supply of flu vaccines with two leading pharmaceutical companies in the likelihood of a flu pandemic.
The four year contracts worth £155.4m, commit GSK and Baxter Healthcare to supplying a pandemic influenza vaccine as soon as a pandemic strain is identified by the World Health Organisation.
Influenza pandemics occur when a new flu virus emerges that people have no immunity.
A vaccine against the exact strain will need to be made at the time the new virus emerges, bu it will not be immediately available as production is often complex.
Health Minister Dawn Primarolo says this puts the UK "on the front-foot" if a flu pandemic occurs, adding it is the "latest steps towards ensuring we are as fully prepared as possible."
She says: "We take the potential threat posed by pandemic flu very seriously and as the WHO has recognised, the UK is among the best prepared countries in the world.
"With GSK and Baxter already committed to produce a tailored vaccine for the NHS as sson as the pandemic is identified, we are confident that we are putting in place another important component of our preparation for a flu pandemic."