Tuesday, May 05, 2009

H1N1 flu vaccine and the developing world

Up to a few months ago, the media was almost singularly focused on the election of President Obama. Seemingly from his first day in office, the attention switched to the feeble state of the US and global economy and what the new US president was going to do about it. Now the media has had to turn to something else: the 2009 H1N1 flu. Besides dubious Hollywood films, disease outbreaks have always made for good copy, particularly if the disease is potentially fatal and easily transmissible. Virtually every aspect of the flu has been reported and discussed in gruesome detail, from the effects of the epidemic on pork production to the (overly?) strict public health measures taken by the Mexican government.

There is one issue that has garnered significantly less attention, however. If the H1N1 virus comes in a more virulent form in a second wave during the fall or winter, there will be calls to produce a vaccine against the virus. Vaccines are generally made in a handful of European or American countries. Mostly vaccines are developed in these countries by pharmaceutical companies who patent their products -- and seek a healthy return on investments -- when they go from research to marketing and sales. The question then becomes whether those in the developing world will be able to access any new H1N1 vaccine, or will we see the usual disparity of epidemic impact as already we do with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis: the poor will be hit the hardest.

As a pair of recent articles in SciDev point out, there is no shortage of expressions of goodwill by pharmaceutical companies who say they will give out H1N1 vaccines if it comes to that. Whether that will happen in reality is yet to be seen. For when an epidemic hits, there is immediate demand for vast quantities of vaccine, and when pharmaceutical companies are on the supply side, they are sitting in a very powerful negotiating position.

UPDATE or related link: the Third World Network has put out a press release on this subject, and the link is available here.

3 Comments:

Blogger Ron said...

H1N1 could really make us suffer so let us participate how to kill and stop this virus. We should be cautious in our body or lifestyle. We should also have a test like using ELISA kits to know whether you really acquire this virus.

4:48 PM  
Blogger DANIEL said...

swine flu really love the whole world, in many American countries in Europe and Asia also affected must fight to control this pandemic. like that of many obese people who want to practice a abdominoplasty surgery

1:45 AM  
Blogger Anna said...

There is a version that the population of these countries was infected for a certain purpose. Winstrol

8:52 AM  

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