Indonesia agrees to share bird flu virus samples with WHO

Published: Tuesday 15 May 2007

indonesia has agreed to share h5n1 avian influenza virus samples with who. This step comes after a high-level technical meeting was conducted in Jakarta on March 26-27, which discussed responsible practices for sharing avian influenza viruses for research and their benefits. This issue will be further discussed at the forthcoming session of the World Health Assembly in May.

The Indonesian government had earlier stopped sharing h5n1 virus samples with who collaborating centres saying that though developing countries were providing samples for research, the vaccines produced were priced too high for them to access.

Though the Jakarta-meeting endorsed who's efforts to link vaccine manufacturers in developed and developing countries to expedite transfer of influenza vaccine manufacturing technology, who made it clear that countries can negotiate with vaccine manufacturers on pricing.

"who is not involved in any financial negotiations. We will facilitate only if countries seek support," said David Heymann, who's assistant director-general for communicable diseases.

Indonesia has had 81 bird flu cases since 2003, with 63 deaths. It has already made a deal with Baxter Healthcare, an American company, to send samples to the company in return for low-cost vaccine and help in building vaccine factories in Indonesia.

Baxter has recently come out with a vaccine using h5n1-Vietnam strain, which has been found effective against the strain found in Indonesia.

who regularly collects h5n1 avian influenza virus samples from around the world for research and provides material to vaccine manufacturers to develop vaccines.

The system of virus sharing is around 50 years old. Withholding viruses could pose a threat to global public health security. And if Indonesia had not agreed to sharing virus samples, it would have been under high risk. "We have struck a balance between the need to continue sharing of influenza viruses for risk assessment and for vaccine development, and the need to help ensure that developing countries benefit from sharing without compromising global public health security," Heymann said.

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