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Countries Agree To Draft Framework On Virus Sharing, WHO Says

After almost four years of negotiations, the WHO on Saturday announced it had reached an agreement on sharing flu virus samples, Agence-France Presse reports (4/17).

“Negotiators ended an all-night session with a draft agreement accepted by all countries, including the United States, the last to join the consensus, diplomats said,” Reuters writes (Nebehay, 4/16). Intellectual Property Watch describes some of the documents released last week during the working group session leading up to the final draft agreement Saturday (Saez, 4/15).

“The new framework includes certain binding legal regimes for WHO, national influenza laboratories around the world and industry partners in both developed and developing countries that will strengthen how the world responds more effectively with the next flu pandemic,” according to a WHO press release. “By making sure that the roles and obligations among key players are better established than in the past – including through the use of contracts – the framework will help increase and expedite access to essential vaccines, antivirals and diagnostic kits, especially for lower-income countries,” the release states (4/17).

“The [pharmaceutical] industry has pledged to donate drugs and know-how, covering half of the $58 million (35 million pounds) annual cost of boosting defences in the poorest nations, according to senior envoys,” Reuters continues. According to the news service, the International Federation of Pharmaceutical Manufacturers and Associations released a statement supporting the plan (4/16).

“The framework provides a much more coherent and unified global approach for ensuring that influenza viruses are available to the WHO system for monitoring and development of critical benefits such as vaccines, antiviral drugs and scientific information while, at the same time, ensuring more equitable access to these benefits by developing countries,” Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general of Health Security and Environment at WHO, said, according to the WHO release (4/17). Health ministers will vote on the framework deal during the WHO’s annual meeting in May, the Associated Press reports (4/17).

“This has been a long journey to come to this agreement, but the end result is a very significant victory for public health,” WHO Director-General Margaret Chan said, according to U.N. News Centre. “It has reinforced my belief that global health in the 21st century hinges on bringing governments and key stakeholders like civil society and industry together to find solutions,” Chan added (4/17).