September 18, 2009
A group of nine countries on Thursday announced they would share H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine supplies with developing nations to protect the world's poorest from the H1N1 virus, Reuters reports. The U.S. joined Australia, Brazil, France, Italy, New Zealand, Norway, Switzerland, and Britain in the pledge, according to the news service. The new donations add to the 120 million vaccine doses pharmaceutical companies GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Pasteur pledged to the WHO (9/18).
According to the Washington Post, WHO officials have "grappled all summer with how to prevent virtually all the supply of vaccine and antiviral drugs from going to rich countries, leaving poor countries unprotected" (Brown, 9/18). WHO Director-General Margaret Chan commended the countries in a written statement: "The announcement demonstrates the commitment of these countries to fairness in sharing of scarce resources as the 2009 H1N1 influenza pandemic continues to evolve ... Given that current demand outstrips supply, these donations, together with the doses pledged by manufacturers, will help increase supplies of pandemic vaccines to populations that would otherwise not have access" (9/18).
"Worldwide production of the vaccine is projected to be more than 2 billion doses, but experts had feared that most of those doses would go to the rich countries, which could afford to pay for them," the Los Angeles Times' blog, "Booster Shots," writes. "Those fears were eased last week when results from the first clinical trials of the vaccines showed that only one dose was required to stimulate effective immunity ... doubling the available number of doses because experts had been assuming that two doses of vaccine would be required" (Maugh, 9/17).
The White House announced the U.S. would share 10 percent of its H1N1 vaccine supply, the Associated Press reports. "Susan Rice, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters at U.N. headquarters in New York that the announcement 'is one that has real relevance to the work of the United Nations and to our shared interest in promoting and sustaining global health,'" the news service writes. "As vaccine supplies emerge, they will be made available to the WHO on a rolling basis to assist countries that will not otherwise have direct access to the vaccine," Rice added. "We invite and encourage other nations to join in this urgent global health effort, donating vaccine, money and/or technical assistance in an international effort to save lives around the world" (9/17).
"The United States recognizes that just as this challenge transcends borders, so must our response," the White House said in a press release. "Working together, we can ensure that this vaccine limits the spread of the disease, reduces the burden on health care systems, reduces the risk of an even more virulent strain emerging and, most importantly, saves lives -- in the United States and around the world" (9/17).
STV examines the recent commitment by Scotland and the rest of the U.K. to donate H1N1 vaccines to the developing world (9/17).
Global H1N1 Vaccine Supply to Be Lower Than First Estimated, WHO Says
In related news, WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl said Friday that clinical trials have shown the annual production of H1N1 vaccines will be "substantially less" than the 4.9 billion doses vaccines first predicted by the WHO, Reuters reports. Reuters reports. "In a statement, the WHO said current supplies of pandemic vaccine are 'inadequate for a world population in which virtually everyone is susceptible to infection,'" the news service writes (Nebehay, 9/18).
Australia's H1N1 Vaccination Campaign Will Be Among First to Offer Insight on Public Interest In Vaccine
Bloomberg examines how public health experts will be keeping a close eye on Australia's H1N1 vaccination campaign, scheduled to launch in less than two weeks. The country will be one of the first to deliver the vaccine to its population, allowing public health experts worldwide the opportunity to assess the public's interest in the vaccine (Fenner, Bennett, 9/18).