The president of Brazil’s Butantã Institute, Isaías Raw, informed that on Tuesday, October 25, the World Health Organization (WHO) liberated a sample of the H5N1 virus, which will permit the Institute to manufacture a vaccine against Asian bird flu.
The declaration was made during a collective interview at which the creation of a task force was announced for the prevention of the disease in the state.
According to Raw, the shipment containing the virus sample is expected to arrive in the southeastern Brazilian state of São Paulo within a few days. To produce the vaccine, the state department of Health and the Ministry of Health are working together to build the first research laboratory to investigate the influenza virus, which causes flu, and a vaccine factory.
"The idea is for us to have the laboratory ready by the end of December. Vaccine production will begin prior to the conclusion of the factory, in May," Raw explained.
According to the scientist, the initial goal is to produce 20 thousand doses of flu vaccine by 2006, which will function as a reserve stock to vaccinate people who have had contact with the birds, health professionals, and relatives of people who have been infected.
According to Raw, up to now there have been 121 cases of humans infected by bird flu around the world, resulting in 62 deaths. He informed that the efficacy of the vaccine against H5N1 is low, meaning that it provokes little response in the immunological system of humans.
He predicted that the results of tests confirming its efficacy in animals and human volunteers will be available by the end of January.
Raw also affirmed that the teams will try to decrease the required amount of vaccine to a third of the standard dose, through the addition of another substance, so that the same initial quantity of 20 thousand doses can be used to vaccinate 60 thousand people.