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Indonesia cuts deal with WHO

30th March 2007

The Indonesian authorities have announced they will resume sending crucial samples of the bird flu virus to the World Health Organisation (WHO), as long as they aren't used to make vaccines commercially.

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The deal enables the WHO to continue its vital work in tracking the development of the virus in humans. Indonesia has had the largest number of human cases of avian influenza, and several strains of the virus circulate in the country. The virus has ripped through poultry flocks in Asia and Africa since 2003.

It also addresses Jakarta's concerns that while the poorest countries are expected to toe the line on international scientific cooperation, they are often last in line when it comes to access to key treatments.

In January, frustrated that an Indonesian strain of the virus had been used to make a vaccine that most Indonesians would not be able to afford, the country stopped cooperating with the W.H.O. and made a deal to send samples to Baxter Healthcare, an American company, in return for a low-cost vaccine and help in building vaccine factories in Indonesia.

The current agreement means the Indonesian government will still have leverage if it seeks to negotiate affordable vaccines with big pharmaceutical companies at an affordable price.

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