EU aims for flu solidarity

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Series Details Vol.11, No.42, 24.11.05
Publication Date 24/11/2005
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By Martin Banks

Date: 24/11/05

EU health ministers are to discuss the practicalities of sharing stockpiles of vaccines and anti- virals in the event of a flu pandemic.

The ministers, who will meet in Brussels on 9 December, have been asked to respond to a paper circulated at their informal meeting last month.

The Health Commissioner Markos Kyprianou sent a document to all member states, asking: "Would you agree with the principle that all member states should commit to share available resources, including anti-virals and vaccines, so that they can be used where the pandemic strikes first, in order to achieve the best possible outcome for all of us?

"If, for example, one specific region in the EU [was] affected first by the pandemic, would you be prepared to accept that the distribution of the newly produced vaccines and anti-virals would be delivered to the affected area first, without regard to the priority of national orders?"

Some member states, including Belgium, Italy, Lithuania and Cyprus, have already expressed support for an EU-wide stockpile of drugs.

A spokesman for France's EU permanent representation said it would be willing to share resources if there was a pandemic.

A source at Germany's permanent representation said: "Of course, we are willing to consider the proposal but it raises lots of questions, such as who would decide which region should receive the anti-viral drugs?"

A UK government spokesperson said: "We strongly support the WHO initiative to hold a global stockpile of anti-virals and any request over and above this would have to be dealt with on a case-by-case basis.

"While we welcome the fact that the Commission is considering the feasibility of an EU stockpile, there are significant practical issues that first need to be addressed."

Philip Tod, spokesman for Kyprianou, said the issue of sharing resources was a matter for member states.

He said: "The Commission would be willing to co-ordinate and manage stocks of anti-viral drugs but would first have to be given the mandate and resources to do so."

Yesterday (23 November) the Commission, in conjunction with the UK Health Protection Agency, launched a two-day exercise to rehearse member states' plans to deal with a flu pandemic in an EU-wide simulation of such an outbreak.

The exercise involved national public health authorities, the Euro- pean Centre for Disease Prevention and Control and the World Health Organisation.

Article anticipates a meeting of the EU's Health Council, Brussels, 9 December 2005, where Ministers were expected to discuss the practicalities of sharing stockpiles of vaccines and anti-virals in the event of a flu pandemic. Article includes comments by officials from a number of EU Member States and the European Commission on the issue.

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European Commission: DG Health and Consumer Protection: Public Health A-Z: Influenza

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