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AFP Examines Debate Over H1N1 Spending, Resource Allocation

The Agence-France Press examines the debate over how much developed countries are spending to fight the H1N1 virus. There is concern that as developed countries store away antivirals, face masks and vaccines to protect against the H1N1 (swine) flu virus, poor countries are being left empty handed. “Some critics say the spending is so imbalanced that it amounts to health apartheid, protecting rich countries against H1N1 but leaving poor nations to fend for themselves,” the news service writes, adding, “Others argue gargantuan sums are being spent on a disease that is no more lethal than seasonal flu, which is grotesquely disproportionate when thousands die each day of less media-friendly diseases.”

Compared to the “11,500 people [who] are killed from the long-running, entrenched pandemics of AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis” each day, “[s]wine flu has killed 816 people since the disease was notified in April, according to a WHO toll issued on July 27,” according to AFP. Though “[v]accines and antiviral drugs are being allocated for poor countries under strategies espoused by the U.N., through gifts by countries at the bilateral level and as donations by pharmaceutical giants … U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and WHO chief Margaret Chan say there is a worrying shortfall.”

The article features comments from several global health experts, including Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria executive Director Michel Kazatchkine (Martinache, 8/2).

MedImmune To Exceed H1N1 Vaccine Production

The drugmaker MedImmune – one of five companies with a contract to sell an H1N1 vaccine to the U.S. government – says it will be able to produce “200 million doses by next March, about five times what it had expected,” the New York Times reports (Pollack, 7/30). The Washington Post reports, “One effect of the faster-than-expected production … is a lack of enough sprayers used to deliver the vaccine,” the newspaper writes. “The company is in talks with the Food and Drug Administration on approval for the vaccine to be delivered using a nasal dropper instead, [Bernardus N.M.] Machielse, [MedImmune’s executive vice president for operations] said” (Rupar, 8/1).

MedImmune’s chief executive David Brennan said Thursday that the company “is applying for approval in other countries and is talking to the WHO about supplying some pandemic vaccine to poorer countries,” according to the New York Times (7/30).  

End Of Flu Season In Southern Hemisphere Improves Ability To Track H1N1, WHO Says

Because the symptoms of the H1N1 and seasonal flu are similar, the WHO “says the coming end of the regular flu season in the southern hemisphere will help it better track the spread of swine flu there,” the Associated Press/Canadian Press writes. When the seasonal flu tapers off, “officials will be able to assume that all flu cases are swine flu, or H1N1, as is the case in the northern hemisphere,” according to the news services (8/1).