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Tuesday 24 May 2011

Patricia Covarrubia

Brazil’s role and intention during pandemics

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During a meeting of the World Health Assembly, being held in Geneva since last Friday 20, the member countries of the World Health Organization (WHO) reached an agreement on the sharing of viruses and benefits (drugs, diagnostic kits and vaccines, among other inputs) resulting from an influenza pandemic. From this decision, the industry will accelerate the process of transferring technology for production of vaccines (countries will be able to have faster access products to protect their populations because it will be possible to have access to data on the virus, in addition to medicines, vaccines and supplies for diagnosis) and will donate 10% of production to the WHO Strategic Fund.

WHO’s Director-General publicly thanked Brazil for assistance in the process of discussion and approval of the agreement. It all started when in 2006 Indonesia recorded cases of bird flu and needed to send virus samples to a WHO collaborating centre in Australia. At the time, Indonesia has submitted a formal complaint to the WHO, arguing that without standards that regulate the sector, the countries with outbreaks of influenza could not take advantage of important information about the virus quickly enough to make decisions.

In 2009 during a pandemic of influenza A H1N1 and at the World Health Assembly, Brazil led a group of countries who argued that technological innovations for the new influenza should be public. With support from the delegations of two continents (Asia and Africa), as well as Latin American countries, Brazil has managed to approve a resolution which has put the issue of sharing information about influenza A H1N1 and any new flu on the agenda of global debates.

The Brazilian Secretary of Health Surveillance, who was in the Assembly, explained: " in a moment of crisis there is not time for profit, it is time for solidarity to ensure the protection of persons and, consequently, the health of countries". Also, during the Assembly, the Brazilian Minister of Health announced Brazil’s intention of being the first Latin American country to join the network of WHO collaborating centres for influenza.

Finally, the report stressed that the agreement adopted at the WHO applies only in pandemic situations, having no validity to seasonal virus.

Patricia Covarrubia

Patricia Covarrubia