- Corruption Sparks Bird Flu Vaccine Test
- (AFP) -- Indonesia would run tests on its stock of bird
flu vaccine after a corruption scandal involving production of sub-standard
doses, an official said today [10 Oct 2005]. Government auditors suspect
local companies assigned to make the vaccine produced doses of inferior
quality to inflate profits, with the collusion of some ministry officials.
- The disease has killed at least 3 Indonesians and 59
others elsewhere in South East Asia since 2003.
- The agriculture ministry's director for animal health,
Syamsul Bahri, said his office would test vaccine now in stock or in circulation
to determine whether it met minimum specifications. "Our laboratory
capacity is limited, so we will gradually test samples and decide which
vaccine can continue to be used and which (will) have to be withdrawn from
circulation," Mr Bahri said. He could not immediately estimate the
number of samples involved or the time needed for all of the necessary
- Ministry spokesman Suprahtomo said the suspected corruption
case was now in the hands of state prosecutors, and the ministry would
abide by whatever decision was made.
- Yesterday [9 Oct 2005], agriculture minister April Aprijantono
said there were 9 suspected corruption cases involving his ministry last
year  totaling 733 billion rupiah (USD 96.2 million) in lost funds
for the ministry, including the bird flu case, which cost 56.9 billion
rupiah (USD 5.64 million). "This not only caused losses to the state
in material form, it also reduced the effectiveness of vaccines or led
to low vaccine protection levels," Aprijantono said. The minister
said some testing conducted in Java last year  showed the vaccine's
protection level was only about 11.8 to 28 per cent.
- Zainal Baharuddin, inspector general at the ministry,
has said local producers intentionally lowered the vaccine quality to make
more profits from the contract. He said farmers across the country had
also complained they had not received compensation for culling flocks because
officials had embezzled the money.
- Health officials have said that since the 1st human case
of bird flu infection was found in June 2005 in Indonesia, 85 people had
been admitted to the hospital with suspected or confirmed infections. The
main hospital treating suspected cases was due later today [10 Oct 2005]
to discharge 6 children and one adult after tests showed they did not have
the virus, doctor Ilham Patu said. After they leave, Sulianti Saroso hospital
will have 8 patients under observation for suspected bird flu. Dr Patu
said no new suspected cases had been admitted in the past 2 days.
- ProMED-mail email@example.com
- According to the last follow-up report of Indonesia to
the OIE, dated 2 Aug 2005, there had not been any outbreaks of avian influenza
with clinical signs in Tangerang district -- where fatal cases in humans
were reported -- since April 2005. It will be interesting to note whether
the current reported suspicion, related to deficient poultry vaccines,
is based upon clinical observations. One might wonder whether the suspicions
are related to last week's information (20051005.2905) on the Indonesian
health authorities' discovery of asymptomatic chickens which tested positive
for the H5N1 bird flu virus. One of the suggested explanations to this
finding was immunity of the tested chickens to H5N1, conferred by an heterologous
H5 virus (vaccine strain?!). Further explanations will be welcomed. - Mod.AS
- Patricia A. Doyle, PhD
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