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Indonesia: No policy change on bird flu samples

Indonesia does not intend to resume sharing bird flu samples with other countries until there is a global mechanism for virus sharing in place, the health minister told Reuters.

Indonesia has been holding out for guarantees from richer nations and drugmakers that poor countries get access to affordable vaccines derived from their samples. However, Reuters reports that the move has drawn global concern, since experts say it is vital to have access to samples of the constantly mutating virus.

"It depends on the international treaty result regarding the standard material transfer agreement, I will closely monitor this," said Health Minister Endang Rahayu Sedyaningsih.

The World Health Organisation's member states have been holding negotiations on virus sharing, but an unresolved issue is how and when biological samples of viruses would be shared with the world's pharmaceutical companies who need them to make vaccines, an issue known as "material transfer".

Jakarta wants a material transfer agreement for each sample of the virus sent to foreign labs, specifying it will be used only for diagnostic purposes and not for commercial gain.

Source: Reuters

Natalie Berkhout

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