Media Briefing: Influenza A (H1N1)
(Conducted by Dr. Jon K. Andrus, Pan American Health Organization, May 15, 2009)

Good afternoon. Welcome again to members of the press corps on the line, and thank you for taking the time to listen to today's briefing by the Pan American Health Organization on the Influenza A (H1N1) epidemic.
  • Aside from what individuals, families, and communities can do to protect themselves, PAHO is working very hard to assure equitable access to pandemic vaccine when it becomes available.

  • Ongoing work by WHO has identified up to 24 vaccine manufacturers that would be committed to producing pandemic vaccine when the candidate vaccine strains become available to them from WHO Collaborating Centers. We expect those strains to become available later this month.

  • With this information, we expect that vaccines would then become available for national vaccination programs in about 4-6 months.

  • Some of the supply is tied up in pre-production contracts, so PAHO is working hard to ensure access to pandemic vaccine supply for all member countries.

  • To that end, the Director General of WHO is taking time next week during the World Health Assembly to meet with as many potential vaccine manufacturers as possible. Her message will echo PAHO's long-standing commitment to ensure access to pandemic vaccine for developing countries.

  • As we speak, PAHO is working with countries on their pandemic vaccine deployment plans, so that when vaccine becomes available they are ahead of the game in the preparation process.

  • There have been lots of questions about the origin of the virus causing this epidemic.

  • A reputable scientist informed WHO last Saturday that he intended to publish his findings suggesting the origin of the virus causing the outbreak was a virus that originated in a laboratory. This raises obvious implications.

  • He had conducted his research using the genetic sequencing data that has been placed in public access in the interest of complete transparency.

  • Upon notification of this scientist's intent, WHO immediately contacted teams of experts from its Collaborating Centers and requested that they carefully study the results of this research.

  • They concluded a few days later that the virus is a naturally occurring virus, which did not originate from some laboratory.

  • Without going into the details of the amount of work that went into putting together the scientific evidence which was able to refute the conclusions of this scientist, I think this example of intense work illustrates how people are working in a culture of information-sharing and transparency in order to best respond to this outbreak.

  • It also highlights the need to continue monitoring the situation as it evolves, to question certain assumptions, but at the end of the day, to have the best scientific evidence to help explain what we are seeing.

  • Again, as we have said repeatedly, let's remained focused on being as prepared as possible.

  • I am going to stop there to field any questions that you may have.

(You can watch this media briefing on PAHO's Webcasts Page)