Asia Growing Alarmed as West Buys Up World’s Bird Flu Vaccine

In a classic case of First World kicks Third World’s collective butt, Western nations are racing to stock up on Tamiflu, the only drug thought to be capable of stopping an epidemic of deadly avian flu, according to Inter-Press Service.

Led by the United States, the developed world is using its financial muscle to acquire global stocks of the most potent anti-flu medicine available. The U.S. enough doses of Tamiflu to treat more than 2 million people, and reportedly is trying to buy more from the producer, Swiss manufacturer Roche. Britain, France and Norway are reported to have ordered enough Tamiflu to treat 20 percent to 40 percent of their respective populations.

Thailand, by contrast, has secured barely 22,000 Tamiflu doses.

Southeast Asia is the epicentre of ongoing outbreaks of the H5N1 strain of the deadly bird flu virus, and health and gobernment officials there criticized the West’s run on the vaccine especially, they say, since neither the U.S. nor Europe have suffered from bird flu the way that Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia have.

The World Health Organization currently has a stockpile that could treat about 125,000 patients. WHO’s approach tis to have a centralized supply of vaccine that could be flown to a major outbreak to contain the spread of the virus through mass vaccinations. The Geneva-based health body plans to increase its global stockpile of Tamiflu to about a million doses.

Since avian flu began spreading across Southeast Asia, nearly 60 people have died of the disease — 40 in Vietnam, 12 in Thailand, four in Cambodia and three in Indonesia. WHO has received reports of 112 cases of human infection, indicating a nearly 50 percent fatality rate for H5N1 flu.

Two previous global pandemics have been caused by influenza viruses. The one in 1918 that resulted in 50 million deaths worldwide was attributed to a flu strain that jumped from birds to humans.


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