In the scramble for a pandemic vaccine, it's every country for itself. Swine flu has reached global pandemic proportions. The only saving grace is that it has not been as lethal as originally feared. This does not mean we can lower our guard. The government is right to try to secure five million doses of the vaccine against the A(H1N1) influenza virus through an international tender. Unfortunately, no suitable offers have been received. Given Hong Kong's size and limited clout, we are understandably far down the pecking order. But the government should bear some responsibility. It only put out the tender last month. By that time, countries such as Japan, Korea, Singapore and Australia were well ahead of us in the queue. The government also imposed conditions that may have deterred potential suppliers. The cancellation of the tender means the city's residents may be exposed unprotected to another wave of the virus when the flu season returns early next year. Lives could be put at risk. Swine flu's fatality rate appears comparable to that of normal seasonal flu overseas and slightly lower in Hong Kong. But pure statistics suggest a relatively small number of patients will still die from the virus and other medical complications it may cause. It is, therefore, imperative that the government continue to source available vaccines, even though it may not be able to secure the five million doses it was aiming for. One potential source is the mainland. Several mainland and Taiwanese companies have started developing a promising vaccine from a seed virus strain obtained from laboratories recognised by the World Health Organisation. Though Hong Kong has traditionally avoided buying mainland-produced vaccines, an exception may have to be made. As long as quality control and production procedures are held to international standards, there is no reason not to use such a vaccine. Desperate times require desperate measures.