UN prepares for production of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine as infections rise

6 May 2009

The number of influenza A(H1N1) infections continues to climb, the United Nations health agency, which is at the centre of the global response to the outbreak, reported today, as it moves forward with efforts to create a vaccine.

As of 15:00 GMT today, 23 countries have reported 1,658 cases of the infection with 30 deaths, with Mexico topping the list with 946 laboratory confirmed human cases, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).

WHO Director-General Margaret Chan, along with Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, has convened a meeting in Geneva on 19 May with the heads of all companies making influenza vaccines to ensure developing countries have fair access to an inoculation against the new flu strain once it is developed.

“This will be a high-level discussion with the manufacturers, appealing to corporate responsibility and to working together toward increased equitable access,” said WHO Director of the Initiative for Vaccine Research Marie-Paule Kieny.

She added that in the meantime, discussions have already started with individual manufacturers for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) agencies to be able to quickly buy vaccines “as they come off the production line” for people in the most affected parts of the developing world.

WHO has also recommended that manufacturers have everything in place to start producing a vaccine to fight the new influenza A(H1N1) flu strain, said Ms. Kieny.

Next week, WHO is slated to hold a teleconference with its vaccine advisory committee to discuss whether there is enough evidence to recommend that producers “should start large-scale manufacturing of influenza A(H1N1) vaccine.”

Ms. Kieny noted that there is not enough evidence to recommend stopping or cutting back production of the seasonal vaccine. “Potentially a recommendation towards stopping production of seasonal vaccine may come in a few weeks if it does. This is not a done deal.”

 

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