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WHO Appeals For Donated, Low-Cost H1N1 Vaccines

The WHO’s flu chief Keiji Fukuda on Saturday called upon wealthy nations and vaccine manufacturers to donate H1N1 (swine) flu vaccines to developing countries, the Associated Press reports.

“It is clear that the poorest countries in general are just the most vulnerable to any number of diseases, and so it is a big concern,” Fukuda said during a H1N1 symposium in Beijing. “We’re continually hoping that more of the companies will step up and agree to donate more of the vaccine” (Wong, 8/22).

“So far two vaccine manufacturers have pledged 150 million doses of swine flu vaccine to poorer countries. But that’s a drop in the bucket compared with the billions of people in developing nations at risk of getting the new H1N1 virus,” NPR’s “Health Blog” reports. “The WHO expects two billion infections over the next two years — roughly a third of the planet’s population” (Knox, 8/21).

According to Fukada, the WHO continues to negotiate with vaccine manufacturers about lowering the cost of H1N1 vaccines for poorer nations, the AP reports (8/22).

Also during the H1N1 meeting in Beijing, the WHO encouraged the Chinese government to work on an H1N1 vaccine the country would make available to poorer countries, BERNAMA.com reports (8/21).

U.N. and international aid agencies have signed a Call To Action petition, which aims to beef up the preparations of poor nations to respond to H1N1, VOA News writes. The WHO, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, the U.N. Organization for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance and the U.N. Children’s Fund all signed the document, the news service writes (Schlein, 8/21).

Zimbabwe’
s Prime Minister Appeals For Emergency Funds To Help Country Deal With H1N1

“Zimbabwe’s Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai on Friday called for emergency funding to help the nation combat swine flu, after five students contracted [H1N1] in the eastern town of Mutare,” during an annual meeting of the Zimbabwe Medical Association, Africasia reports. “We don’t want a repeat of the cholera experience of last year,” that left 100,000 people infected and 4,200 dead, Tsvangirai said. VOA News examines how the country’s ability to contain H1N1 is complicated by an ongoing health worker strike. The confirmation of H1N1 cases in the country “requires all our capacities to respond,” Tsvangirai said (Nyaira, 8/21).

WHO Advises Tamiflu Use By Patients At High Risk, Experience Serious Complications From H1N1

The WHO on Friday advised doctors against prescribing the antiviral Tamiflu to patients with H1N1 who are not experiencing complications from the flu, Reuters reports. “The WHO said doctors should give Tamiflu to patients with severe illness or whose condition deteriorates, or to high-risk groups including pregnant women, but not to healthy people with no complications, as most of these recover fully within a week,” the news service writes (Nebehay, 8/21).

“Indiscriminate use of antiviral medications to prevent and treat influenza could ease the way for drug-resistant strains of the novel H1N1 virus, or swine flu, to emerge, public health officials warn — making the fight against a pandemic that much harder,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Roan, 8/24). “The WHO said it has been notified of 12 cases where the H1N1 virus had been resistant to treatment with Tamiflu, as a result of a mutation,” Reuters writes. However, “[t]here was no evidence of onward transmission of the virus in these cases, it said” (8/21).

The AP adds: “The advice contradicts some current government policies, such as those in England, whose health agency liberally hands out Tamiflu to healthy people with swine flu. Since the British set up a national flu service in July to deal with the surge of swine flu cases, Tamiflu has been available to anyone suspected of having the disease, including healthy people” (Cheng, 8/22).

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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.