H1N1 flu vaccine and the developing world
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.