Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Holy moly, it's hard getting swine flu vaccine to people who might need it overseas/ NY Times

WHO's Dr. Fukuda still isn't making sense, only now he is discussing WHO's work getting vaccine to poor nations. Swine flu cases began falling rapidly in the US in October. Countries have been trying to give away much of their vaccine stockpile since December. Yet WHO has only managed to get vaccine to two countries. Guess they don't think it's that critical.

From Donald McNeil at the NY Times:
There is now so much unused swine flu vaccine in the world that rich nations, including the United States, are trying to get rid of their surpluses. But the world’s poorest countries — a few still facing the brunt of the pandemic — are receiving very little of it.

...countries that can afford vaccines save themselves first and, when the worst has passed, transfer their leftovers to the poor, using the W.H.O. as a clearinghouse.

That transfer “turns out to be an incredibly difficult logistical action,” said Dr. Keiji Fukuda, the W.H.O.’s chief of pandemic influenza. “It’s a mammoth effort by an awful lot of people and organizations and countries but holy moly, it’s a very complex operation.”

Each country must submit a plan proving it can store refrigerated vaccine, give it to those who need it most, inject it safely and do medical follow-up. It must also sign letters exempting donors from legal liability, and the W.H.O. has to certify the vaccine as safe if the country has no regulatory agency. Even shipping adds delays. By December, Dr. Fukuda said, only five countries had even received syringes...

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