Geneva - As part of a concerted effort to ensure more equitable access to a potential pandemic influenza vaccine, six developing countries are being awarded grants to establish in-country manufacturing capacity for influenza vaccine. The countries are Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Viet Nam.
Up to US $2.5 million from the governments of Japan and the United States will go towards each of the six countries as immediate funding to begin the process of acquiring the needed technology. Japan has provided US $8 million and the United States US $10 million for technology transfer.
"It is imperative that the global community works collectively to ensure more equitable access to a vaccine and other health measures in the event of an influenza pandemic. We all have a responsibility to protect global public health security," said Dr David L. Heymann, World Health Organization (WHO) Assistant Director-General for Communicable Diseases. "Global public health security can only be realized if developing countries are assisted in developing the capabilities to access pandemic vaccines and protect their populations."
"With increased developing country flu vaccine production, there is a dual life-saving benefit. Countries will be able to protect their populations against seasonal influenza, which causes up to half a million annual deaths worldwide, as well as millions of cases of severe illness. In addition, should a pandemic emerge, production lines at these facilities can be converted to manufacture vaccine based on the pandemic strain," said Dr Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research.
The grants are part of the implementation of the Global pandemic influenza action plan which aims to close the influenza vaccine production gap of several billion doses.
"The current global influenza vaccine manufacturing capacity is far short of the capacity needed to protect the world's 6 billion people in the event of an influenza pandemic," said United States Secretary of Health and Human Services Mike Leavitt. "These grants are an important step forward in the global effort to prepare for an influenza pandemic, and I am proud the United States was able to contribute to the support of this funding. I commend the WHO for its continued leadership in guiding these efforts, but much more needs to be done by all of us as global partners to ensure we are better prepared tomorrow than we are today."
It will take a minimum of three to five years for the grant recipient countries to begin producing vaccine locally. Until then, these countries will require support in the shorter term to ensure they can access vaccine to protect their populations. In this context, WHO is hosting a meeting on 25 April to examine options. The meeting will bring together representatives of countries with human H5N1 infections, donor countries, and vaccine manufacturers in developed and developing countries.
For further information, please contact: Melinda Henry, WHO Department of Immunization, Vaccines and Biologicals, (www.who.int/immunization), Geneva; Tel: +41 22 791 2535; Mobile: +41 79 477 1738; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.