New Scientist brings word that a formal agreement on virus and vaccine sharing could be reached next month. This would bring to an end to a process started after the 2007 emergence of avian flu strains that raised pandemic concerns. The World Health Organization (WHO) has the details, and the framework.
Indonesia prompted the action out of concerns that other states would use the virus samples they provided the WHO to develop vaccines that Indonesians couldn’t afford (I wonder if they might do this for clinical trials conducted in their country by foreign firms).
Under the framework, states that contribute viruses to WHO labs will be guaranteed affordable vaccines derived from those viruses. The pharmaceutical industry has promised some assistance in this effort, but there is always the issue of production speed and capacity. Vaccine production was slow during the recent spread of H1N1 influenza, and it will take time to make necessary improvements (the PCAST report considered production changes in their long-term goals). Even with a framework in place, a scarcity of vaccines will make it tough to ensure everyone can get what they need, when they need it, at the price they can afford.