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Mexican, Chilean Presidents Appeal For Developing Countries Access To H1N1 Vaccine

Mexican President Felipe Calderon and Chilean President Michelle Bachelet on Thursday emphasized the importance of developing countries having access to a vaccine that offers protection against the H1N1 (swine flu), “that has killed over 200 people and infected tens of thousands worldwide,” AFP/MSN Philippine News reports.

“It is urgent to ensure, on the one hand, access for all developing countries to an effective vaccine, when available, and of course to ensure the availability of appropriate treatment to combat this disease,” Calderon said.

Though vaccine manufacturers have been racing to develop an H1N1 vaccine, there have been varying responses from the companies on whether or not they will supply free vaccines to poor nations.

“Bachelet said the experience of Mexico, which was at the center of the global pandemic when it first emerged in late April, will be very useful for her government to address ‘the growing number of cases’ in Chile, which has confirmed seven deaths and 5,186 infections,” AFP/MSN Philippine News writes. The statements came after a two-day meeting between the leaders.

On Wednesday, Bachelet expressed disapproval over the decisions of Argentina, Peru, Cuba and Ecuador to suspend flights to and from Mexico. “Chile believes in solidarity among Latin Americans” (AFP/MSN Philippine News, 6/25).

Sanofi-Aventis Begins Large-Scale Production Of H1N1 Vaccine

Vaccine maker Sanofi-Aventis announced Thursday it has started “large-scale production” of an H1N1 vaccine at its facilities located in the U.S. and France, Reuters reports.  “Sanofi said dosage requirements for the vaccine will be based on clinical trials expected to take place during the summer in the northern hemisphere,” the news agency writes (Steenhuysen, Reuters, 6/25). “The company has the capacity to make 270 million doses of vaccine per year at its three plants,” the Los Angeles Times reports (Maugh, Los Angeles Times, 6/25).

U.S. Officials Estimate Number Of H1N1 Cases Near 1M

U.S. health officials on Thursday said they believe as many as 1 million Americans have been infected with H1N1 and “6 percent or more of some urban populations are infected,” the AP/Washington Post reports. The estimates were based upon survey data collected by health officials and mathematical modeling (Stobbe, AP/Washington Post, 6/26).

According to the Los Angeles Times, Lyn Finelli, a flu surveillance official with CDC, told members of a vaccine advisory committee that while “nearly 28,000 laboratory-confirmed” cases have have been reported in the U.S., “standard models of viral spread indicate that many times that number have been infected.” The seasonal flu typically infects between 15 million to 60 million Americans annually. By this time of year, “[t]he normal seasonal flu virus has virtually disappeared from this country, as would be expected. But the novel H1N1 virus is continuing to spread, and now accounts for 98% of all cases,” the newspaper writes (Los Angeles Times, 6/25).

“As many as 60 million doses of vaccine to protect against the new virus could be ready by September, said Robin Robinson, an official with the federal agency that oversees vaccine manufacture and distribution. That prediction seemed a bit optimistic, others at the meeting said,” the AP/Washington Post writes (AP/Washington Post, 6/26).

H1N1 Confirmed In Vanuatu

Also on Thursday, the island nation of Vanuatu confirmed its first cases of H1N1, “becoming the latest Pacific country hit by the epidemic after New Zealand, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Samoa and French Polynesia,” Xinhua reports (Xinhua, 6/25).

A full list of country cases and deaths is available here (WHO Influenza A(H1N1) – update 54, 6/26).