Pandemic influenza A viruses of avian origin are of particular concern and have crossed the species barrier several times in recent years, giving rise to illness and occasionally death in humans. This situation could become dramatically worse if the infectivity of avian viruses for humans were increased by reassortment between the genes of human and avian viruses. Co-infection of humans or an intermediate host with an avian strain and an existing human strain could produce new viruses of unknown pathogenicity to which the entire population would be susceptible. Inactivated vaccines against influenza have been prepared for many years using viruses grown in embryonated chicken eggs. However, the use of eggs presents difficulties when vaccine supplies need to be expanded at short notice. It seems likely that future vaccines will be prepared in high-yielding cell cultures from continuous lines that are preferably anchorage-independent. At present, only certain preparations of the Vero and Madin-Darby canine kidney cell lines, grown and maintained in serum-free medium, are acceptable to all regulatory authorities. However, this situation is likely to change with increasing need for non-pandemic and pandemic vaccines.