Severe acute respiratory syndrome, or SARS, may seem so last year, but Dow Jones reported Wednesday that GlaxoSmithKline (NYSE:GSK) has entered into a pact with France's Institut Pasteur to develop a vaccine to prevent it. Meanwhile, news agencies reported that Asian markets were impacted by concerns regarding indications of a possible SARS outbreak in Taiwan.

Who cares about SARS? The urgent health story so far this year, of course, has been influenza, boosting demand for flu vaccines provided by Aventis (NYSE:AVE) and Chiron (NASDAQ:CHIR). Even MedImmune (NASDAQ:MEDI) has a better prognosis for its high-priced FluMist product, as Don Crotty commented early this month.

As for SARS, whether it's set to reemerge in last year's epidemic proportions is uncertain. The "outbreak" in Taiwan has thus far turned out to be one person -- who works on SARS research and apparently contracted it in the laboratory -- diagnosed with the illness.

Before discounting the urgency, though, one should remember that since SARS first hit the scene in November 2002, the World Health Organization has calculated that about 8,100 people were infected and nearly 800 died of what is undoubtedly a highly contagious and deadly virus.

If this does turn into a full-scale outbreak, Glaxo will struggle to develop a vaccine in time. Still, the possibility of government investments in the endeavor could show this to be a smart move later for the drug giant later on.

The market shrugged off the news Wednesday, with the stock closing only $0.18 higher at $45.41, and there's no surprise there. The news is certainly interesting, but with the flu getting top billing, and with so many variables on the SARS front, it's not compelling to make any moves on Glaxo just yet.

Is Glaxo your idea of a perfect prescription? Is flu obsession overwhelming the real threat, SARS? Talk about this and other issues facing this company on the Fool's GlaxoSmithKline discussion board. Alyce Lomax welcomes your feedback at