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UNASUR with strategy to fight swine influenza.

swine flu vaccineIn spite of the critical situation in the region, due to the confrontation of Colombia with Venezuela and Ecuador, the integration of The Americas continue in aspects of positive interdependence that are very important, like Public Health and the struggle against the pandemic of swine influenza.

In that respect, in Quito , the Summit of the southamerican countries organized in UNASUR gave important results.

Although this vaccine has not yet been discovered, a number of countries “in the developed world (…) have prepaid for it, ” said Caroline Chang, Minister of Health of Ecuador.

 UNASUR Flag UNASUR Flag

 Chang informed for the press the points agreed by the Health Council of the UNASUR (Union of South American Nations), which will be reflected in the Declaration of the Bicentennial, “and noted that the UNASUR governments reiterated their support for the” leadership “of the WHO to negotiate with “laboratories and governments of the industrialized countries” and “ensure the access of the vaccine to the most vulnerable people.”

 She also indicated that, together in the UNASUR, the regional body’s member countries agreed to strengthen technological strategies for the production of medicines in their countries, in what she called “the supremacy of the interests of public health over commercial interests. ”

 According to the representative of Ecuador, the governments of UNASUR shall establish a joint negotiating strategy. The
Ministers of Health of the UNASUR agreed to advance in the joint purchase of 300 million treatments for the flu AH1N1, through the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO).

Additionally, these countries undertook a decission not to buy drugs for the virus AH1N1 “at prices above what the Panamerican Health Organization OPS is willing to pay, avoiding in this way that commercial interests take advantage of the panic and uncertainty caused by the pandemic , “said Chang.

“The pandemic of influenza A (H1N1) has a high transmission rate and the behavior remains unpredictable,” said Chang at the conclusion of the event, which assessed the impact of the virus in South America.

 She noted that “the impact on health services have been dramatic and the demand for hospital services is on the rise.”

 Also Jeanette Vega, Secretary of Public Health of Chile, said that Latin American countries will develop a strategy for prioritizing common health goals “. Vega also said that according to data handled at the regional level, 30 per cent of the population of these nations of UNASUR would be part of vulnerable groups to the swine influenza. ”

 She added that there are developed countries that ” they will vaccinate the one hundred percent of the population and that is to the detriment of countries that do not have equal opportunity to negotiate financially.”

 The extraordinary meeting of the Board of Health of UNASUR in Quito were attended by ministers and senior representatives of the governments of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Paraguay, Peru and Uruguay. The summit also were accompanied by representatives of Mexico and the OPS.

 The Ministers warned that UNASUR will denounce abuses of the pharmaceutical market in accordance to the Doha Round of WTO.

 In this respect, spokesmen of UNASUR explained that the laboratory Novartis of Switzerland is offering the vaccine that have not been patented -because they did not complete its development- in exchange for an a pre payment of USD 10 per treatment.

 “Novartis said that the vaccine is under development and has been offered in advance. The final price will be USD 20, “said Sebastian Tobar, a member of the argentine delegation.

 The UNASUR agreed that price negotiations will be undertaken by the countries organization as a whole. The purpose is to ensure that there is greater buying power for the southamerican countries.

 The Argentine official underscored the attitude of Chile. Previous to this summit, the chileans decided to purchase 6 million treatments with multinational laboratories, but yesterday, in Quito, decided to suspend efforts to join the initiative from other Latin American countries.

 Let us hope that positive integration steps like this one, and the good example of generosity of Chile will continue in our continent.

 Instead, it was disconcerting to see the position of Brazil, which refused to suspend the negotiations already underway.

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