Commentary: Social Rationality Should Prevail to Prevent Flu Epidemic
    2009-05-20 20:54:55     Xinhua      Web Editor: Qin Mei

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Dr. Margaret Chan, head of the World Health Organization, on Tuesday urged 30 pharmaceutical manufacturers to reserve some of their pandemic flu vaccines for poor countries.

The effort by Ban and Chan resulted in few concrete offers.

In contrast, many wealthy countries have signed deals with drug makers that promise them millions of flu vaccines as soon as they're available.

Experts say an effective flu shot is still months away.

With the number of A/H1N1 flu cases nearing 10,000 globally, vaccines have become a rare source because of patent rights and the limits of production capacity.

In a market-oriented economy, the scarcity of resources is evident by the price. Buyers who can afford a higher price will have access to the resources and that makes the drug makers more willing to deal with developed countries.

The behavior is indisputable in regards to economic rationality. But apparently it is short of social rationality as the drug makers think more of their profits than public welfare in the face of a widespread flu outbreak.

Just imagine who will survive the turbulence if a shortage of vaccines and other medicines leads to a quick spread of the flu virus in developing countries.

Experts have warned that it is impossible to accurately predict just how far or wide the flu virus will spread. The speed of vaccine production may not catch up with the speed of the evolving virus.

So, the first and foremost act should be to curb the spread of the virus, especially in poor countries that don't have adequate public health care resources.

About 85 percent of the people who died of A/H1N1 flu were from low-income countries.

It is noteworthy, too, that some Southern Hemisphere countries have reported confirmed cases of A/H1N1 flu, and the African continent is facing an increasing possibility of the virus spreading.

If any sub-Sahara African country does not have enough money or does not put response measures in place, global efforts to combat the virus will likely fail and bring disastrous consequences to the world.

The international community should do its utmost to keep such a situation from happening.

Up to now, the flu epidemic has been reported mainly in developed countries that can curb the outbreak through systematic prevention and control and effectual anti-virus treatment.

But developing countries, especially poor countries that have a relatively weak capability for disease prevention, may need more help with medicines and vaccines to deal with a possible epidemic.

Therefore, because of limited production capacity for the A/H1N1 vaccine, it is extremely important to distribute the vaccine and other resources in a reasonable, well-targeted manner.

The world's major drug makers should assume more social responsibility and grant vaccine sub-licenses to developing countries, while developed countries should provide more support for those nations in need.

A global flu epidemic will test not only science, technology, and management capabilities, it will also test mankind's cooperation and determination to jointly overcome the disease.

The world's countries, no matter rich or poor, only can ride out the difficulties through solidarity, interdependence and mutual assistance.


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