Cuba considers making a bird flu vaccine

Campaign News | Wednesday, 16 November 2005

There are not enough medicines in the world to treat a pandemic , say scientists

HAVANA 16 November - Cuba said on Thursday it was considering researching a vaccine against bird flu, warning that antiviral drugs available today are barely enough to protect "the rich people in rich nations" from a pandemic.

Communist Cuba's biotech industry, one of the most advanced in the Third World, has developed dozens of new drugs, including the world's only vaccine against meningitis B and experimental cancer vaccines.

"We have taken the first steps to think about a possible vaccine for animals and humans," the deputy director of Cuba's Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology, Dr. Carlos Borroto, said.

"We don't want to raise expectations because we are still studying this," he told reporters. Cuba has asked the World Health Organization for strains of the virus to begin work.

Borroto said only two antiviral drugs made by multinational pharmaceutical firms had proved effective for bird flu, but were not being produced in sufficient quantities.

"If the pandemic occurs in the short term, there will only be enough drugs for the rich people in rich nations, not even for all the people in rich nations," he said.

The antiviral drugs available are Tamiflu, known generically as oseltamivir and made by Roche AG and Relenza, known generically as zanamivir and made by GlaxoSmithKline.

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