Influenza :: Mike Leavitt on the World Health Assembly Resolution on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness

Statement by Mike Leavitt, Secretary of Health and Human Services, on the World Health Assembly Resolution on Pandemic Influenza Preparedness:

Sharing of Influenza Viruses and Access to Vaccines and Other Benefits:

I am pleased the World Health Assembly has adopted a resolution on pandemic influenza preparedness that makes clear that Member States must continue to share influenza specimens and viruses with the World Health Organization?s (WHO) Global Influenza Surveillance Network.

I am also pleased that the resolution emphasizes the need for increased vaccine access. We have invested heavily in the development of new vaccine technologies that will benefit the international community. The United States strongly supports the WHO?s efforts to meet the long-term global need for an influenza vaccine through the Global Pandemic Influenza Action Plan to Increase Vaccine Supply, and has provided $10 million to this effort. In addition, the United States is committed to working with Member States and the WHO to explore other avenues to meet the near-term need for greater access to influenza vaccines, including pre-pandemic vaccines.

The open and rapid sharing of influenza samples ensures that the global public health community maintains critical pandemic influenza preparedness and response activities, including the development and production of pandemic influenza vaccines. Withholding influenza viruses from the Global Influenza Surveillance Network greatly threatens global public health and is inconsistent with the spirit of the legal obligations we have all agreed to undertake through our adherence to the International Health Regulations.

The United States works with the WHO and international partners throughout the world to enhance global surveillance and pandemic preparedness. This collaboration is based on four important principles: (1) transparency; (2) rapid reporting; (3) sharing of data; and (4) scientific cooperation. In that spirit, we continue to call on countries everywhere to share influenza samples openly and rapidly, without preconditions.

Pandemics happen. It is a fact of biology, a fact of the unseen world of viruses, which are constantly mutating, adapting, and attacking. In a pandemic, time matters — and lives are at stake. All nations will benefit and have a responsibility to fully participate in the WHO?s efforts to prepare for an influenza pandemic.

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