UN health agency hails aid to developing countries for flu vaccine technology
Aiming to ensure that in the event of a flu pandemic, all countries will have access to sufficient doses of influenza vaccine, six developing States are being awarded grants to establish their capacity to manufacture them, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) announced today.
Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Viet Nam will each benefit from up to $2.5 million from Japan and the United States to begin the process of acquiring the needed technology, the Geneva-based agency said in a news release.
“It is imperative that the global community works collectively to ensure more equitable access to a vaccine and other health measures in the event of an influenza pandemic. We all have a responsibility to protect global public health security,” said Dr. David L. Heymann, WHO Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases.
He said the wider world will benefit. “Global public health security can only be realized if developing countries are assisted in developing the capabilities to access pandemic vaccines and protect their populations.”
Helping developing countries to produce flu vaccine carries a “dual life-saving benefit,” said Dr. Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research. “Countries will be able to protect their populations against seasonal influenza, which causes up to half a million annual deaths worldwide, as well as millions of cases of severe illness,” she said. “In addition, should a pandemic emerge, production lines at these facilities can be converted to manufacture vaccine based on the pandemic strain.”
It will take a minimum of three to five years for the grant recipient countries to begin producing vaccine locally. Until then, these countries will require support in the shorter term to ensure they can access vaccine to protect their populations, according to WHO, which will hold a meeting tomorrow bringing together representatives of countries with human bird flu – or H5N1 – infections, donor countries, and vaccine manufacturers in developed and developing countries.