Indonesia is providing bird flu specimens to WHO again. And Indonesian Health Minister Dr Siti Fadilah Supari has just published a book declaring the 50 year plus history of global influenza surveillance is part of a conspiracy by the developed world to control the rest of the world:
“Developed countries become richer because they have the capability to develop the vaccine and control the world,” she writes.
Dr Supari also expresses alarm at WHO laboratories sharing bird flu virus data with the United States National Laboratory in Los Alamos, New Mexico, where nuclear weapons are developed.
“Whether they use is it to make vaccine or develop chemical weapons would depend on the need and interest of the US Government,” she writes.
“It is indeed a very dangerous situation for the destiny of humanity.”
“It is a matter of choice whether to use the material for vaccines or biological weapon development,” she adds. (Australian Broadcasting)
Is the resumption of virus sharing and the notoriety surrounding publication of Supari’s book related? I have no idea but the coincidence seems not so coincidental to us. It’s hard to claim Indonesia is taking the high road when the chief architect of the refusal to share the virus displays so clearly her tenuous grip on reality. According to those who know her she believes she is on a God inspired crusade against evil and neo-colonialism. This undermined legitimate critiques of the current system the Indonesian position raised. Hence the virus started to move again.
It’s good that WHO is getting virus again. But it doesn’t address the underlying problems in the system of vaccine production. Nor does the expression of wounded eelings (no doubt genuine):
Professor Anne Kelso, the director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Influenza in Melbourne, says she is saddened by the accusations.
“Of course, we don’t feel about it that way,” she said.
“We feel we are working for global public benefit by monitoring how this virus is changing as it moves around the world. We don’t personally profit in any way from that work. We simply try to do our technical job.
“I have heard this view expressed by the Minister of Health of Indonesia and it’s very difficult for us to hear it because it does contrast so much with our own feeling about the public value of our work.
It’s not that the scientists and public health officials engaged in global flu surveillance are engaged in selfish or nefarious activities or plots against the very people they have made dedicated efforts to help. Knowing this community I am absolutely confident the dedication is genuine. Most of them could be doing much better working for multinationals rather than international agencies. But they operate in a political landscape contoured in ways that directs resources and benefits along certain lines and constrains them along others.
If Supari’s self-inflicted damage means we just slip back into the status quo ante I think we will be worse off.