Friday, January 15, 2010

Is Avian Flu vaccine next for selected groups?/ WHO

WHO's Strategic Group of Experts Working Group on Avian Flu (H5N1) Vaccine is working on "evidence-based recommendations" for using up stockpiles of avian flu vaccine that are reaching their expiration date. From WHO's website:
"Facilitate a SAGE review and decision on potential evidence-based recommendations on the use during the current inter-pandemic period of:
    • H5N1 influenza vaccines in persons at high-risk of infection with H5N1 avian influenza virus and/or and in certain priority groups (as identified by country plans) or in the general population
    • WHO stockpiled H5N1 influenza vaccines reaching the end of their shelf life."
Could this be why WHO's Director General starting warning about Bird Flu two weeks ago? "The world is not ready for a pandemic to be caused by H5N1," she chirped.

Like her deputy Dr. Fukuda, Dr. Chan has personal experience responding to both bird flu and SARS while serving as Hong Kong's health director. This shared experience likely skewed their priority setting at WHO.

How can WHO's sages make any recommendations based on evidence when there never has been a bird flu pandemic and bird flu viruses have never caused an epidemic through person to person spread? Get real, WHO, and stop hiding a universe of uncertainty behind pretty verbiage and scare tactics.

The issue at hand is whether you are going to recommend using expiring vaccines in humans, whose safety and efficacy are unknown, for a disease epidemic that does not exist. And the advantage to doing so is the theoretical hope that if the disease ever surfaced, the vaccine might provide a soup├žon [French: a suspicion, hint or drop] of protection. Presumably the real reason to use it is to enable WHO and national health departments to purchase more, newer bird flu vaccines, thereby increasing Pharma profits while expanding the concept of appropriate vaccine uses.

Investing in snake oil (excuse me, bird oil) is great business, especially if the World Health Organization is behind you.

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