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Thursday, May 24th 2007

Avian Flu Samples For All

Indonesia Takes Their Stuff And Heads Home

China and Indonesia will give up bird flu samples to the WHO
, under guarantees that they’ll have affordable access to any vaccines that are developed.

Indonesia – one of the countries most affected by the avian influenza outbreak – only recently began sharing its latest strain samples again, having blocked them since December.

It had argued that the pharmaceutical companies would use the samples to produce a commercial vaccine that was beyond the country’s economic reach.

I mean, I’m all for poorer nations playing hard ball to better their footing in the world economy. There’s no doubt some of the third world’s troubles are based on exploitation by the west.

But we’re not talking about loan repayments here or a trade agreement.

True, I think the media coverage of avian flu was overblown, and created an unnecessary level of fear initially. But this is still a major worldwide public health concern.

But WHO Director-General Dr Margaret Chan has accused countries that refused to provide timely samples of crippling the fight against a possible flu pandemic.

Holding progress on a vaccine partially hostage because you want to make sure your people get a piece of it…is selfish. End of story. It literally is saying: we’re afraid we won’t benefit, so everyone will suffer. At least they’ve accepted whatever guarantees they got about the vaccine and have come around.