Press Release
July 28, 2009

Report on hording of A(H1N1) vaccines worries Loren

Senator Loren Legarda expressed dismay yesterday over the affirmation of her fears that rich countries may wittingly or unwittingly horde the limited supply of swine flu vaccines to be produced by pharmaceutical firms.

"Certainly, affluent countries have the money to buy A(H1N1) vaccines faster than they can be produced by drug firms," said Loren, chair of the Senate Committee on Health and Demography.

Loren noted with alarm a report by the Agence France Presse (AFP) that: "Governments are scrambling to buy up hundreds of millions of doses of swine flu vaccine but health experts warn the poor may lose out as wealthy countries corner strictly limited supplies.

"The World Health Organization has unofficially estimated that the world's labs may only be able to produce around 900 million doses for the A(H1N1) strain per year, for a planet that is home to 6.8 billion people." Said AFP.

Loren cited the order made by Germany for 50 million doses of the vaccine for its 25 million people, France's firm order of 94 million doses and an option for 36 million more, as well as the one billion dollars which the United States set aside to buy the vaccine.

"Developing countries like the Philippines cannot possibly compete with rich nations in the purchase of A(H1N1) vaccines, more so since the price of the vaccine can be expected to go up because of the big demand and the limited supply," said the senator.

"I am, therefore, urging the World Health Organization, to use moral suasion on the world's pharmaceutical companies, as well as on affluent nations, not to create a situation in which poor countries hit hard by the A(H1N1) virus would have very limited access to the vaccine," she stressed.

Initially, the impression was that WHO would farm out the vaccine to the countries that most need them, something which Loren described as "the right thing to do if the pandemic is to be contained."

Even before the AFP report, Loren had urged the government to set aside a budget for the purchase of the vaccine, as well as to lobby the WHO for prioritization in the allocation of the vaccine.

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