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The business of saving lives part 2

 
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Aurelyn
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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 12:16 pm    Post subject: The business of saving lives part 2 Reply with quote

In a similar vein to my first column is the issue of vaccine supply in poor countries. This is currently in the news because of the looming threat of a bird flu H5N1 pandemic, with its most likely point of origin in Indonesia. Every year countries donate samples of flu virus to developed countries so that they can update their vaccines. In the case of H5N1, viral samples have been given to the WHO, on the basis that they were used for research and not for commercial use, because the current situation with vaccine is that the viral samples come from a developing country, a vaccine is developed in a developed country with established vaccine factories, and then sold back to the original country, where most of its citizens will not be able to afford it. In case of a pandemic, countries with vaccine plants and a stockpile will use them to keep their own citizens safe before tending to poorer countries such as Indonesia.

Because of this proviso, the WHO limited its global database of bird flu genetic samples to just a few labs. The trouble started after Indonesia eventually agreed to allow access to these sequences in the public domain. Shortly afterwards an Australian manufacturer announced it was applying for approval for a H5N1 vaccine for its stockpile based on Indonesian samples. Indonesia threatened legal action, and in January refused to donate any more samples to the WHO unless it was granted fair access to high quality vaccine and the chance to make its own.

Happily the situation has been resolved in the last few weeks, with the WHO and the Indonesian government reaching an accord. The WHO will attend to Indonesia's grievances, and Indonesia will resume sending virus samples.

This whole situation highlights the desperate need for developing countries to benefit from sharing their virus samples, without which vaccines could not be developed in the first place.

Thoughts?
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Bloo



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PostPosted: Tue Mar 06, 2007 9:01 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I think it's madness. History will go over in a loop, anyway. Have you guys ever seen that program special on the discovery channel entitled, "The End of Earth" ?

Although vaccines, while they last, are a very good thing, but they have a small chance of infecting the one who gets the shot in the first place because of the small sample in the formula. That's why I've never gotten the chicken-pox in my child years, yet once I hit 13, it was the worst case in my neighborhood.
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Robot Chicken Koko



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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 12:26 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

I agree with you Aurelyn. But one thing I don't understand: did that Australian manufacturer apply for a patent? Would Australians making the vaccine prevent Indonesians from making it for themselves?
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Aurelyn
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PostPosted: Wed Mar 07, 2007 7:08 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Koko wrote:
I agree with you Aurelyn. But one thing I don't understand: did that Australian manufacturer apply for a patent? Would Australians making the vaccine prevent Indonesians from making it for themselves?


The Australian manufacturer applied for regulatory approval on a vaccine that they were going to make - I'm not sure if it was ever patented. If it was, presumably that particular vaccine would then have to be made under license from the patent holder - if Indonesia wanted to make their own they would have to start from scratch. I think - I'm not too solid on the legalities... Which is academic in any case, since Indonesia's state-owned pharmaceutical company doesn't have the capability to make H5N1 vaccine.
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