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Indonesia, Baxter sign MOU on bird flu vaccine JAKARTA - Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding with a unit of U.S. company Baxter International Inc. on Wednesday to develop a human bird flu vaccine, as Jakarta came under fire for not sharing samples of the virus. Earlier reports of the deal had stirred controversy because it had been linked to Indonesia's decision not to share H5N1 bird flu virus samples with foreign laboratories.

Experts say sharing of H5N1 samples is crucial as it allows specialists to study the makeup of the virus, and trace its evolution and the geographical spread of any particular strain. Samples are also used to prepare vaccines. Indonesia has the highest fatalities of any country in the world from the disease, accounting for 63 deaths out of the global total of 166 over the past four years. Bird flu largely remains an animal disease, but can kill people who have close contact with infected fowl.

Kim C. Bush, president of the vaccine unit of Baxter's Switzerland-based Baxter Healthcare SA, said at the signing ceremony that the decision on samples was Indonesia's, not the company's. "The government providing strain and samples to other countries and other agencies is completely unrelated with the collaboration under the MOU. Baxter is not involved in those processes," Bush said in a speech.

"We certainly support and endorse the best practice recommendation coming from WHO (the World Health Organisation) for the sharing of viruses and sequence data," he said. Medical experts have criticised Indonesia's decision not to share virus samples with foreign laboratories. "This seems to be a rather perverse take on intellectual property rights. It seems perverse that they would get upset by people using this," a virologist in Hong Kong who declined to be identified said on Wednesday.

"If it was a Western country that did that, there would be outright condemnation. How could they be so arrogant as to put the world at risk?" If Baxter successfully develops such a vaccine, it will confer protection against the H5N1 strain now in Indonesia, but not necessarily against other H5N1 strains prevalent in Indochina, parts of Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

"This is an ethical issue. The need to know should not be confined to just Indonesia, it is a world problem. If Indonesia just provides information to one company and lets the company monopolise (the situation) the rest of the world may be affected," said Hong Kong infectious disease expert Lo Wing-lok.

Rules of the game

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari defended Indonesia's decision, saying the samples should only be used for diagnostic and not commercial purposes. "The specimens we sent to the WHO have been forwarded to their collaborating centre. There it has been used for various reasons such as vaccine development...or research," Supari said. "Later they sold the discovery to us. This in not fair. We are the ones who got sick, they took the sample through WHO and with WHO consent and they tried to produce it for their own use," she said at a news conference after the MOU signing.

A statement said the MOU called for the health ministry's research and development agency to supply specimens of H5N1 and Baxter to provide technology to help develop a vaccine. Sulistyowati said on Tuesday the vaccine was to prevent poultry-to-human infection, needed for the current situation but not for a future pandemic that might involve human-to-human transmission.

Under the MOU, Indonesia would have the right to produce and market the bird flu vaccine domestically as well as export it to a number of countries, the statement said. Production would be carried out by makers appointed by the health ministry. Supari said Indonesia hoped to have the vaccine ready by the end of the year. Another senior Indonesian official said earlier this month development of the vaccine was at a very early stage.


Link to related event Related event:
Bird flu in Indonesia

Related blog entries (category 'Bird Flu') Related blog entries (category 'Bird Flu'):
06 February 2007 · Indonesia withholds vital bird flu data
03 February 2007 · Jakarta poultry ban implemented
31 January 2007 · Indonesia to declare bird flu a national disaster
27 January 2007 · Indonesia asks troops to fight bird flu
24 January 2007 · UN: Bird flu endemic in Indonesia


Posted in Bird Flu @ 07 February 2007 09:24 CET by Jeroen · 'Blog' RSS feed · permalink






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