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China, WHO To Collaborate On Flu Research Center

Chinese and WHO officials last week agreed to open a flu research center in Beijing, Bloomberg reports. “The new collaborating center for reference and research on influenza will join a network of WHO-affiliated labs in Atlanta, London, Tokyo and Melbourne that monitor flu strains and make recommendations on vaccines to fight the virus,” the news service writes. “A center in Beijing may enable scientists to more quickly identify new strains that emerge in China, said John Mackenzie, a Melbourne-based virologist who chaired the WHO’s emergency committee responding to the influenza pandemic sparked by swine flu.”

According to a statement by China’s Center for Disease Control and Prevention, the research center in Beijing “will not only greatly enhance China’s ability to monitor and prevent flu from spreading, but also increase China’s influence and power in decision-making in the area” (Gale, 11/17).

In related news, the Japanese Trust Fund announced Tuesday it will donate “a stockpile of 500,000 courses of H1N1 [swine flu] drugs by April next year to supplement any shortfall in the region,” Reuters reports. “The stockpile will be held in Singapore and will include 400,400 courses of Tamiflu… and 100,000 of GlaxoSmithKline’s Relenza antiviral drug.”

“‘The stockpile will be channelled to the Asian countries that need it most, as decided by the World Health Organisation,’ Naoko Noda, adviser to the Japan International Cooperation System, told Reuters on the sidelines of an Asia-Europe Foundation pandemic preparedness seminar” (Ahmad, 11/17).

Senators Address U.S. H1N1 Vaccine Supply

On Monday, Sens. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.) and Susan Collins (R-Maine), with the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, sent a letter to HHS Secretary Kathleen Seblelius ahead of the agency’s scheduled testimony before their committee today, expressing “dissatisfaction with the Obama administration’s effort to distribute the H1N1 vaccine,” The Hill writes. The senators believe a vaccine shortage in the U.S. was due, in part, to the “agency’s decision to identify an initial target group that comprised nearly 50 percent of the U.S. population,” the news service writes (Fabian, 11/16).

Reuters reports that Lieberman and Collins “praised the Health and Human Services Department for working quickly, but said the agency had sent a mixed message to the public. ‘The glaring discrepancy between the demand for and supply of H1N1 vaccine in our country has resulted in pregnant women standing in line for hours, only to find no vaccine at the end,’ they wrote to” Sebelius (Fox, 11/16).

“Lieberman and Collins said that a letter Sebelius penned to their panel last month about the shortage was ‘a sure sign that lessons have not been learned to ensure that this situation does not happen again’ because it did not admit any missteps on behalf of the federal government,” The Hill reports (11/16).