In order to prevent First World labs from exploiting fear of the A/H1N1 flu pandemic South America's twelve nations on Saturday pledged to respect regional vaccine price ceilings, Ecuador's Health Minister Caroline Chang said.
"(We) establish a commitment to not buy individually, above the prices set by the Pan-American Health Organization (OPS) … to prevent commercial interests from taking advantage of pandemic panic," she said, summarizing the conclusions of a meeting of the region's health ministries, called to map out a strategy to fight the pandemic.
The region needs 200 million flu vaccine doses, she said. The meeting was held in the framework of the Union of South American Nations, Unasur, summit which began officially this Monday, August 10, in Quito.
Chang said South America backed what she said was the World Health Organization's negotiations with pharmaceutical companies and rich First World countries to ensure those most vulnerable have access to the vaccine under development.
The statement coincides with the World Health Organization, WHO, announcement that vaccines to combat the A/H1N1 virus could be available as early as September in some countries. WHO is taking advantage of a so-called fast-track process to speed up testing and production of the vaccine in large quantities.
A statement of the WHO website says the faster testing and approval process is necessary to avoid a greater outbreak. Cases of people infected with the influenza virus are expected to rise in the fall.
WHO recently reported 162.230 confirmed cases and 1.154 deaths globally from the A/H1N1 virus. Leading flu vaccine makers include Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Baxter, CSL and Solvay.
Unasur governments that signed the Quito statement are Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia, Surinam, Guyana, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, Chile, Peru, Bolivia and Venezuela.
The Washington-based OPS (Organización Panamericana de la Salud – Pan American Health Organization) says there are a total of 102.105 confirmed cases of the virus in the Western Hemisphere. OPS which is a 35-nation regional arm of the WHO, runs a fund to buy vaccines for the Americas and posts the prices it paid
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