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Last Updated: Wednesday, 7 February 2007, 08:15 GMT
Jakarta bird flu deal questioned
Man using disinfectant in Jakarta
More than 60 people have died from H5N1 in Indonesia
Indonesia has signed a preliminary deal with a US drug manufacturer to jointly develop a human bird flu vaccine in a move that has stirred controversy.

Under the memorandum of understanding, Indonesia will provide samples of the bird flu virus to Baxter International.

In return, Baxter will offer Indonesia technical help to produce a vaccine.

The deal has been linked to Jakarta's decision to stop freely sharing samples of the virus, triggering concern from world health officials.

Jakarta says it wants to maintain intellectual property rights over the strains of the H5N1 virus that are discovered in the country.

"We cannot share (virus) samples for free. There should be rules of the game for it," a health ministry spokeswoman was quoted as saying by news agency Reuters on Tuesday.

Indonesia and other poor countries have expressed concern in the past that they have given samples of genetic material for vaccines that they then cannot afford to buy - a situation acknowledged by experts.


At the signing ceremony, Baxter International said the decision to stop sharing virus samples with the rest of the world was Indonesia's alone.

"Baxter is not involved in this process and we don't intend to be involved in (it)," Kim C Bush, president of the firm's vaccine unit, said.

Pigeon in south Jakarta, Indonesia, on 15 January 2007
Keeping poultry in backyards has been banned

The World Health Organisation expressed concern at Indonesia's decision ahead of the deal.

A senior WHO official, David Heymann, said Indonesia had not shared bird flu samples since the start of the year.

"Certainly we're concerned and that's why we were in Indonesia already in November talking with the health ministry about the situation," he said on Tuesday.

Samples are vital in keeping track of the small genetic mutations the virus undergoes, as scientists watch for the emergence of a strain that could cause a serious human flu epidemic.

Indonesia has suffered the highest number of human deaths related to bird flu than any other country, with more than 60 people killed in the past two years.

A ban on keeping poultry in back yards has recently been imposed amid fears of more flu outbreaks.

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