The World Health Organization plans to start shipping swine flu vaccine to Azerbaijan, Afghanistan and Mongolia in the next few weeks, flu chief Keiji Fukuda said.

Another 35 developing countries are in line to get the vaccine soon. The UN health agency has prioritised sending the shots to northern hemisphere countries first, which are being hit harder by swine flu than countries in the southern hemisphere.

The agency had hoped to send the vaccine earlier, but the effort has been delayed by manufacturing problems and bureaucracy.

When WHO declared swine flu to be a pandemic, or global outbreak, in June, it warned the virus could have a devastating impact in countries across Africa with high numbers of people with health problems like malnutrition, AIDS, and malaria.

Most people who catch swine flu only have mild symptoms like a fever or cough and recover without needing medical treatment.

WHO has a stockpile of about 180 million swine flu shots, donated by six drug makers and a dozen countries.