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Indonesia privatizes bird flu

Dimas Ardian/Getty Images Indonesia, the country with the highest number of human bird flu victims, has decided to share samples of its H5N1 virus with drug manufacturer Baxter International instead of the World Health Organization. In return, Indonesia will gain full access to any vaccine Baxter develops, according to the agreement. The move comes as ...

Dimas Ardian/Getty Images

Indonesia, the country with the highest number of human bird flu victims, has decided to share samples of its H5N1 virus with drug manufacturer Baxter International instead of the World Health Organization. In return, Indonesia will gain full access to any vaccine Baxter develops, according to the agreement. The move comes as the WHO is striving to extend international sharing arrangements for seasonal flu strains and potential pandemics, so the global health body is very concerned about the deal.

Baxter has made it clear, though, that Indonesia’s decision not to share with the WHO has nothing to do with its agreement. So why is Indonesia refusing to collaborate now? Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari explains:

[Specimens sent to the WHO] have been forwarded to their collaborating centre. There they have been used for various reasons such as vaccine development or research.

Later they sold the discovery to us… This is not fair. We are the ones who got sick, they took the sample through WHO and with WHO consent and they tried to produce it for their own use.”

The WHO fears that everyone will lose out if other countries follow suit. Drugs would likely become more expensive for those countries not party to a private deal with a drug company. Ironically, through its arrangement with Baxter, Indonesia could actually be making its problems worse in the long run.

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