The World Health Organization (WHO) deserves continued support and commendation for its leadership in guiding the global effort to prepare for and respond to a potential human influenza pandemic.
The current global capacity to produce a vaccine to respond to an influenza pandemic is insufficient to meet the global need, especially in developing countries.
The recently published WHO Global Pandemic-Influenza Action Plan to Increase Vaccine Supply provides a strong foundation to increase the availability of seasonal and pandemic influenza vaccine around the world, but its implementation must be accelerated.
The United States strongly supports the efforts of the WHO to address this critical gap. In that spirit, the United States has provided $10 million to the WHO to expand the development and manufacturing infrastructure for influenza vaccine in developing countries. In addition, our nation has been making significant investments in vaccine research and in expanding production capacity, including $1 billion in cell-based vaccine research efforts. These investments will likely benefit not only citizens of the United States, but also citizens of the world.
Efforts to increase the availability of influenza vaccines in developing countries, however, should not compromise the integrity of the 50-year-old WHO Global Influenza-Surveillance Network, which provides early warning of evolving influenza virus strains, both seasonal and those with pandemic potential. All nations have a responsibility to share data and virus samples. The United States looks forward to discussing creative options with stakeholders in the coming weeks to accelerate implementation of the WHO Plan in the quickest and most effective manner and in ways that provide countries with the flexibility they need.
Responding to a pandemic will demand the cooperation of the world community, as no nation can go it alone. If a country is to protect its own people, it must work together with other nations to protect the people of the world.