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Indonesia, WHO reach deal on bird flu virus samples
posted by admin on 05/03/07
Indonesia has agreed to resume sharing bird flu virus samples after the World Health Organization (WHO) guaranteed they would not be used for commercial purposes, local press reported Friday.
Indonesia softens its stance after WHO Director-General Margaret Chan reportedly called Indonesian Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari assuring that the Indonesian samples would be used only for risk assessment.
Supari was quoted by The Jakarta Post newspaper as saying she has received a call from Chan ensuring that the WHO "would accommodate our request to use virus samples only for risk assessment, not commercial purposes."
Indonesia stopped sending virus samples to the WHO early this year after it discovered an Australia-based pharmaceutical company had developed a vaccine based on the Indonesian bird flu strain without Jakarta's permission.
Indonesia has fought for a new global virus sharing mechanism that is fair to all countries and for greater access to vaccine production for developing countries.
The minister said Thursday the current system is unfair, with the WHO seeming to favor pharmaceutical companies, while the vaccines are often too expensive for poor countries to afford.
"We want to change the system so that third world countries are not victimized by developed countries.
"It's for the sake of humanity and is not for only an Indonesian problem, but a problem for the world."
Indonesia, where bird flu has killed 64 people, the highest toll in the world, will resume sending virus specimens as soon as the WHO's director general signed a letter of guarantee of non- commercial uses.
"A letter of guarantee signed by WHO's director general is strong enough," she said.
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