Brazil presented a proposal to the World Health Organization (WHO) to be chosen as one of the international production centers for a vaccine against Asian bird flu. The proposal was introduced at the 2nd European Conference on Influenza, which began on Sunday, September 11, and ended Wednesday, September 14, in Malta.
Asian bird flu is caused by the H5N1 subtype of the influenza virus, the same as the type responsible for the Spanish flu. The death rate is high. To the point where both the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) are worried about the possibility of a pandemic outbreak of the disease.
According to Brazil’s secretary of Health Surveillance, Jarbas Barbosa, a plan drawn up by specialists in the Brazilian Ministry of Health should be concluded and submitted in October. The objective is for municipalities and states to take preventive measures.
The director of the São Paulo Butantã Institute, Isaias Raw, represented Brazil in Malta. The institute is responsible for 82% of the Brazil’s vaccine production, including flu vaccine.
Barbosa observes that the Brazilian proposal may be accepted, since few countries have shown an interest in producing a vaccine to combat the Asian bird flu virus, in light of the highly mutable nature of the virus.
He points out that the WHO intends to reserve a strategic stockpile of the vaccine for use in prevention in case of a global epidemic, and Brazil’s self-sufficiency would be welcome.
The vaccine is still not being manufactured, but the WHO has already developed the seed lot. “Our expectation is that, when the product is ready for multiplication, we can initiate production of the vaccine (…) in Brazil in 2006, of at least 100 thousand doses to keep in stock for a quick response in case of a pandemic outbreak,” he adds.