The Knucklehead of the Day award
Today's winner is the Indonesia Health Ministry. They get the award for the following.
JAKARTA (AFP) - Indonesia will not share bird flu samples with the UN's health body until it is guaranteed access to affordable medicines to treat victims of the deadly virus, a government official said Thursday.I can sympathize with Indonesia wanting cheaper medicines and vaccines. What I can't sympathize is with their non-cooperation with the WHO. The Indonesian Health Ministry is showing a reckless disregard for human life, and that is why I make them today's Knucklehead of the Day.
The World Health Organisation this week accused Indonesia, which has suffered the highest number of human deaths from the H5N1 virus, of putting the world at risk by failing to share its samples.
Passing on laboratory samples would allow the WHO to keep track of any mutations that might spark development of an even deadlier pandemic strain of influenza, according to the body.
But Lily Sulistyowati, a spokeswoman from Indonesia's health ministry, said authorities here were awaiting a new mechanism that would put new guidelines on sample sharing in place.
Indonesia wanted a system that was transparent and allowed developing countries affordable access to medicine supplies to treat bird flu, she said.
This was because "we had difficulties when we wanted to buy Tamiflu," she told AFP, referring to the main drug used to treat victims of the virus.
"We could not get it directly. The WHO told us that we had to queue up with other countries, developed countries, where they don't really have any cases."
Indonesia stopped sharing virus samples with foreign laboratories in December 2006, saying it feared multinational drug companies could use them to develop vaccines that were not affordable for poor countries.
Jakarta said in May it had resumed sending H5N1 specimens to a WHO laboratory in Tokyo, but a senior WHO official this week said three specimens sent did not contain live flu viruses, and two were from the same person.
Indonesia confirmed its first human bird flu case in July 2005 and has since confirmed 81 deaths.
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