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Africa Region Leaders Meet To Discuss H1N1 Procurement, Distribution

Representatives of African countries are meeting in Abuja this week to discuss the procurement and distribution of the H1N1 (swine flu) vaccine, the Daily Trust/allAfrica.com reports (Rabiu, 11/23).

Leadership/allAfrica.com reports that the World Health Organization announced at the meeting that it will donate vaccines to about 10 percent of the population for countries in Africa. The article adds details about other topics to be discussed at the week-long meeting (Uduehi, 11/23).

Radio Nederland Wereldomroep examines efforts underway in several “emerging industrial nations, including India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa,” to produce their own H1N1 vaccine. “It’s a sound initiative,” health expert Remco Van de Pas, of the aid organization Wemos, said. “The question remains for each country whether the flu is a public health priority or not. Is this the priority they need to focus on and invest money and knowledge in or are there other problems in the country that need attention as well?”

RNW reports, “In countries where more people die from AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis than the flu, development of an H1N1 vaccine could be considered wasteful. It’s money that could be better spent on treating curable diseases.” The article also examines whether the countries proposing their own H1N1 vaccine production have the capabilities to produce and distribute the vaccine on their own (Groot, 11/23).

Washington Post Examines U.S.’s ‘Antiquated’ System Of Developing Vaccines

In related news, the Washington Post examines the U.S.’s “antiquated” system of developing vaccines – an issue that has “become glaringly obvious” in the face of the H1N1 vaccine shortage and development lag. The article examines several promising new technologies that would speed up vaccine development, noting, “While several companies are trying to ready their new techniques in case the H1N1 pandemic worsens, most of these remain years away from contributing significantly to the world’s capacity to respond to a deadly new pathogen.” The article also explores the reasons pharmaceutical companies have “had little incentive to invest in new [flu vaccine] technologies” and ideas about how the federal government could incentivize the search for new technology (Stein, 11/24).

Uzbekistan Closes Border With Kazakhstan To Stop Spread Of H1N1  

“Uzbekistan has closed its border with central Asian neighbor Kazakhstan to all but citizens of each nation returning home, the Kazakh Foreign Ministry said on Monday, as swine flu spreads in both countries,” Reuters/Washington Post reports (Auyezov, 11/23).

Number of H1N1 Deaths In Europe Continues To Rise, European Officials Report

The number of deaths from H1N1 in Europe has “doubled almost every two weeks since the middle of October and 169 people died of the virus in the past week, disease surveillance experts said on Monday,” Reuters reports.

“The Stockholm-based European Centre for Disease Control and Prevention said 670 deaths have been reported in Europe from H1N1 flu since they began monitoring it in April and all 31 European Union and European free trade area (EFTA) countries now have cases of the virus. … The ECDC reported ‘very high intensity’ of flu-like illness in the past week in Italy, Norway and Sweden and said intensity was ‘high’ in Bulgaria, Denmark, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland and Portugal,” according to the news service (Kelland, 11/23).