WHO welcomes the news from the Minister of Health of Indonesia, who announced at a joint news conference that the country would resume sharing of H5N1 avian influenza virus samples ?immediately?.
This commitment by the Government of Indonesia follows a two-day meeting organized by WHO in Jakarta on 26-27 March 2007.
Indonesia?s Minister of Health, Siti Fadilah Supari, has focused global attention on the fact that developing countries have supplied H5N1 virus to WHO Collaborating Centres for analysis and preparation for vaccine production, but that the resulting vaccines produced by commercial companies are likely to be unavailable to developing countries such as Indonesia. She called this system ?unfair.?
At the same time, withholding viruses from WHO Collaborating Centres poses a threat to global public health security and the ongoing risk assessment for influenza, conducted by WHO Collaborating Centres.
WHO Collaborating Centres perform a number of key influenza-related public health activities, including:
– determining if the virus has acquired human genes or made other significant changes;
– identification of potential vaccine strains;
– testing to determine if the virus remains vulnerable to the recommended class of antivirals;
– tracking the evolution of the virus and its geographic spread; and
– updating diagnostics tests which may be necessary because the H5N1 virus, like all influenza viruses, constantly mutates.
WHO has welcomed the attention that the Minister has focused on this issue and her concern for developing country needs. In order to address these concerns and to maintain sample sharing for risk assessment, WHO organized the Jakarta 26-27 March meeting entitled ?High Level Technical Meeting on Responsible Practices for Sharing Avian Influenza Viruses and Resulting Benefits?.