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WHO holds bird flu vaccine talks

24th April 2007

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is holding a meeting April 25 to discuss ways to increase the access of developing countries to potential pandemic vaccines.

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It will follow on from negotiations with the Indonesian government in Jakarta, and bring together representatives from countries affected by H5N1, plus vaccine manufacturers and donors.

Potential outcomes include an agreement on mechanisms for access to vaccines, including stockpiling options, the WHO said in a statement on its website.

Meanwhile, Japan and the United States have pledged up to US$18 million in grants to help six developing countries develop their own manufacturing capacity for a potential pandemic influenza vaccine.

An initial tranche of US$2.5 million would be given immediately to Brazil, India, Indonesia, Mexico, Thailand and Vietnam under the programme, WHO said.

"With increased developing country flu vaccine production, there is a dual life-saving benefit.," Marie-Paule Kieny, Director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research, said in a statement.

"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," she added.

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 WHO said in a statement on its website.

It will still take a minimum of three to five years for those countries to begin producing vaccine locally. Other measures would need to be taken in the meantime to ensure access to crucial vaccines, and this would be addressed at the April 25 meeting, the agency said.

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