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H1N1 in the News: Some Countries Now Donating Vaccine to WHO

February 1, 2010

vaccine_arrival_mng_2_152According the World Health Organization (WHO), H1N1 has reached more than 200 countries or territories, yet many of the poorest nations have not received H1N1 vaccine.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan cautions that, even though the disease has peaked in many parts of the world, the flu season is not yet over and influenza knows no boundaries. “To protect people in one country is to protect us all,” said Chan.  

In September of last year, before vaccine was available to many Americans, President Obama announced that the United States would donate 10 percent—or 25 million doses—of the country’s H1N1 vaccine supply to WHO.

Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), later said in a November press briefing that it would be difficult to say with certainty when and how much vaccine the U.S. would provide to other countries. U.S. H1N1 vaccine supplies have yet to be released to WHO.

As the H1N1 pandemic wanes and vaccine uptake diminishes, some critics of WHO’s response to the pandemic have cried foul, saying the facts were exaggerated to boost pharmaceutical sales. Several European countries are now trying to rid themselves of excess supplies of vaccine.

Some are canceling orders or renegotiating contracts with pharmaceutical countries. France is canceling 50 million of the 94 million doses ordered. Others are starting to give away vaccine. The Netherlands and Switzerland have both donated half of their supply.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Canada loaned Mexico five million doses of H1N1 vaccine, a stopgap measure to meet public demand while Mexico waits for manufacturers to fulfill orders. Last week it was reported that Canada has agreed to donate five million doses to WHO.

Mongolia was the first developing country to receive donated H1N1 vaccine doses from WHO—with 100,000 doses delivered in January—followed by Azerbaijan and Afghanistan. Azerbaijan received 170,000 doses, and Afghanistan received 500,000 doses sent by the WHO and 100,000 doses sent by Turkey.

WHO plans to ship over eight million H1N1 vaccine doses to Cambodia, Cuba, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, El Salvador, Fiji, Honduras, Kenya, Kiribati, Nauru, Nicaragua, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Solomon Islands, Sri Lanka, Togo, and Tonga.

Along with six drug companies, the U.S. is one of 14 industrialized countries that have pledged nearly 190 million doses for use in developing nations.

More information on WHO's full response to H1N1 can be found here

Photo copyright: World Health Organization


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