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Developing Countries Reassess Need For Donated H1N1 Vaccine

As the number of H1N1 (swine flu) cases in some regions of the world continues to fall, developing countries scheduled to receive donated H1N1 (swine flu) vaccines from the WHO are reassessing just how many vaccines their countries need, the Canadian Press reports. “The WHO had hoped to provide vaccine for up to 10 percent of the populations of developing countries that wanted donated vaccine,” the newspaper writes.

Marie-Paule Kieny, director of the WHO Initiative for Vaccine Research, on Tuesday explained: “[M]any countries now have the impression that the peak is over. And so I think then the governments are also themselves considering whether and how much vaccine they want to deploy.” According to Kieny, the deployment of donated vaccines can run between $1 to $5 per dose.

“The first deliveries of donated vaccine are expected to be made this week, roughly two months later than the WHO had initially hoped to start the process,” caused by “production problems and the need for extensive legal paperwork,” the newspaper writes. Afghanistan, Azerbaijan and Mongolia will be the first to receive the donated vaccines, later this week and next week (Branswell, 1/5).

Meanwhile, France’s Health Ministry announced Tuesday that it had cancelled purchases of 50 million of the 94 million H1N1 vaccine doses it ordered, Agence France-Presse reports. “France had expected to give most of its population of at least 64 million two doses each to protect against the A(H1N1) virus, but only five million have been vaccinated and European health authorities have said one dose is enough.” France’s Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot said negotiations were ongoing with the H1N1 vaccine makers to avoid fines for cancelling their orders (1/5).

“France’s move follows similar steps this week by the Netherlands and last month by Germany, Spain and Switzerland, all of which could curb revenues for vaccine makers Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline and Novartis,” the Wall Street Journal’s “Health Blog” reports (White, 1/5).

In related news, WHO director-general Margaret Chan received an H1N1 vaccine on Dec. 30 – “a day after admitting at a news conference that she had not got round to it due to travel and other demands,” Reuters reports in a second story. A WHO spokesperson said Chan is feeling well after receiving the vaccine (Nebehay, 1/5) and reemphasized the WHO’s recommendation that others receive the H1N1 vaccine, according to Agence France-Presse/AsiaOneNews reports (1/5).

On Tuesday at the UAE global health conference, Richard Feachem, professor of global health at the University of California, San Francisco and University of California, Berkeley, discussed enhanced global capability to cope with future pandemics, ArabianBusiness.com reports. “If swine flu becomes highly virulent, things could become much worse … Global governance for pandemic preparedness is in poor shape, and is not in place to allow countries to join hands and cope,” Feachem said. “Globally we should be ready for early identification of these new pandemics, and have in place containment and coping methods,” he added (Bladd, 1/6).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.