Sharing of influenza viruses and access to vaccines and other benefits
Dr Margaret Chan
Director-General of the World Health Organization
Madam Chair, distinguished delegates, ladies and gentlemen,
First, let me acknowledge the difficulties caused by the change in the dates for this meeting. I thank you all for coming.
This meeting is yet another expression of the continuing concern about the serious consequences of an influenza pandemic. This concern is shared among governments, and among their multiple ministries, all around the world.
The concern is rightly placed, as is the emphasis on preparedness. I can think of no other health event that is so rapidly global in its sweep, or so potentially devastating in terms of human illness and deaths, and severe economic and social disruption.
The current financial crisis has taught us how quickly an adverse event can spread throughout the systems that link us all so closely together. Public health has very few cost estimates that can compete with the multi-billion dollar bailouts that make the headlines these days. But we do know, from a recent World Bank estimate, that the global economic costs of the next influenza pandemic could reach US$ 3 trillion.
We all want the May 2007 resolution on pandemic influenza preparedness to be as fully, and fairly, implemented as possible.
Preparedness requires shared responsibility and collective action on multiple fronts. Previous sessions of this intergovernmental meeting have assigned some priorities to these actions. I believe that progress has been made. I also believe that the sense of urgency, expressed at the April meeting and throughout this process, is entirely appropriate.
Your Chair will take you through some house-keeping items, with her well-known agility. Dr Keiji Fukuda will give you an overview of where we stand on some technical matters.
These include the advisory mechanism and the virus traceability mechanism, both intended to improve transparency and inclusiveness, and to build trust. We have also seen progress in the sharing of benefits, including access to vaccine and antiviral stockpiles, and the transfer of technology for manufacturing influenza vaccines.
The Strategic Advisory Group of Experts on Immunization will brief this meeting on its most recent recommendations, particularly as they pertain to the H5N1 vaccine stockpile.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Fairness in the face of a universal threat has been a central theme in this process. As reflected in the 2007 resolution, this means fairness in the sharing of viruses, as well as fairness in the sharing of benefits. Actions in both areas are expressions of global solidarity before a global threat.
I am proud that we have seen this spirit of solidarity expand beyond public health to include donors, industry, development banks, experts in information technology, and others.
I thank not only participants in the intergovernmental meeting, but also the members of many other advisory groups, technical consultations, and expert panels that have been organized to support your deliberations.
In conclusion, let me express my appreciation for the tremendous amount of work undertaken to move the agenda forward. It is my sincere wish that this meeting can now reach consensus on the remaining outstanding issues.
The WHO Secretariat is at your disposal.