Thailand to continue sharing H5N1 samples

Mar 23, 2007 (CIDRAP News) – Indications today are that Thailand will continue to share H5N1 avian influenza viruses with the World Health Organization (WHO), contrary to a news report yesterday.

Bloomberg News reported yesterday that Thailand would restrict access to its H5N1 viruses, and CIDRAP News passed along that report. But a senior Thai health official said Thailand had no plans to withhold samples, according to a Reuters report published yesterday.

In addition, WHO spokesman Dick Thompson in Geneva told CIDRAP News today that Thailand has not signaled any intention to withhold samples. "We have received no official information that the situation relating to sharing of samples from Thailand has changed," Thompson said via e-mail.

Thai officials quoted by both Bloomberg and Reuters said Thailand shared Indonesia's concern about access to vaccines based on samples collected in the country. Indonesia revealed in early February that it had stopped sharing H5N1 samples with the WHO out of concern that high cost would put any vaccines made using the samples out of reach for Indonesia.

Bloomberg's report cited comments by Public Health Minister Mongkol Na Songkha. The Reuters story quoted the minister's senior adviser, Suwit Wibulpolprasert, who, when asked if Thailand planned to withhold samples, said, "No, never. Definitely not."

Scientists regard access to recent H5N1 virus isolates as essential for monitoring the virus's evolution and developing vaccines against it.

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