More nuttiness from Indonesia on bird flu

Indonesian Health Minister, Siti Fadilah Supari, has reiterated her refusal to share isolates of H5N1 virus (it's unclear if this is her decision alone or is the considered decision of the Indonesian government). This came at the current inter-minsterial conference on bird flu on underway in Delhi (how many of these conferences are there, anyway? It seems like every week there's another one.) Her demand is that every isolate have a Material Transfer Agreement (MTA) requiring a statement each time the isolate is shared with another laboratory, stating it is only for diagnostic purposes and not commercial purposes. Indonesia has the isolates and the scientific community doesn't, so at this point I would say, "OK. We'll do an MTA while we figure out the eventual system." What's the alternative? Not having timely information.

But the Health MInister has not made any friends for her country and her erratic behavior and confused arguments don't help. She claims that once the isolate is transferred to WHO, WHO "owns it." No one owns the isolate, although Indonesia wants to say it does. As we have argued here too often, this is a perversion of intellectual property that the developed world has invited by its own rapacious practices in holding the rest of the world hostage just as Indonesia is now trying to do.

Speaking to TOI [Times of India], she said her country's bad experience with the small pox virus had made her cautious. "In 1926, small pox virus was found in Indonesia. In 1962, we developed a vaccine and in 1974, we managed to wipe out the virus. In 1984, WHO asked all nations to destroy the last known samples of the virus. We destroyed even our labs."

She added, "Suddenly in 2005, WHO said that the virus was made into a biological weapon and therefore, vaccines would be required and stockpiled for an emergency. And countries will then have to buy them from developed nations.], she said her country's bad experience with the small pox virus had made her cautious. "In 1926, small pox virus was found in Indonesia. In 1962, we developed a vaccine and in 1974, we managed to wipe out the virus. In 1984, WHO asked all nations to destroy the last known samples of the virus. We destroyed even our labs."

She added, "Suddenly in 2005, WHO said that the virus was made into a biological weapon and therefore, vaccines would be required and stockpiled for an emergency. And countries will then have to buy them from developed nations. (Times of India)

The smallpox vaccine doesn't use smallpox virus, so I don't understand her argument. All smallpox virus should have been destroyed when the disease was eradicated, but it wasn't. Now everyone -- not just Indonesia -- has to live with the consequences. If it gets loose, there won't be enough productive capacity or distributive capacity to save most of the world's population. Not in the developed world or the developing world. That's not a consequence we can feasibly protect ourselves against. It's a red herring. And no one would have been safer if Indonesia had kept its own stock of smallpox virus. Given the level of incompetence demonstrated by the public health system there, it is a chilling thought.

I've tried to be sympathetic to the problem Indonesia has pushed to the forefront but the Indonesian Health Minister is an unconstructive, ignorant, often irrational and bizarre individual. There are several developing nations working constructively to bring a resolution. No one would care about Indonesia except they are the world's hot spot for human and animal infection at the moment.

And irresponsible nuttiness.

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Thank you for appropriately censuring the Health Minister for Indonesia's decision to not share their viral isolate. I have only one concern with your article--the use of the term "nuttiness". The term might be appropriate for the odd neighbor who puts stickers on the windows to keep the aliens away, or for the kid who walks around with his fingers up his nose, because they are only "nutty", and otherwise harmless. In this case, however, the issue is the decision of a national government at the center of a near-pandemic-- with a national CFR approximating 85%. This is not a harmless idiosyncrasy; it is entirely an issue of one country holding the rest of the world hostage with a very loaded gun, and with possibly deadly results. Once the manure hits the ventilating device--assuming that all international travel hasn't shut down by then-- who wants to travel to Indonesia to even pick up a vial of that stuff to transport it? This is deadly insanity.

agreed. I have no problem with MTA's for the moment.
It allows us to trace the evolution and the danger.
That doesn't prevent WHO from further negotiations,
if the situation should change, though.
Once panflu starts or H5N1 mutates significantly
and the world is at risk, then Indonesia should
rethink their position.
For the moment we could produce vaccine or conduct
experiments on the old A/IDN/5/05 strain, or not ?

In fairness to the health minister, she was probably given some random info by a underling somewhere (hence the erratic behavior). She's rather unlikely to be familiar with smallpox herself. Blame the ministry, not the minister.

If I were Supari then I would be packing my bags for Thailand really soon. Erratic and abrasive behavior is what I would call it. But again we dont have to worry because out of some 100 news papers the ONLY bird flu story is the one stating it would cost the world economy 2 trillion bucks to have it make its debut. We are cured in Indonesia. BF doesnt exist.

FYI Revere some inside skinny from a source in the DOC said it wasnt just the samples. The real gig was another 2 billion dollars AND the vax plant. Still waiting to get the full transcript but that wont include the working group noise, just the official stuff.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 05 Dec 2007 #permalink

I agree an ice breaking for this lose/lose situation, perhaps MTA for the first step. There are many steps to finish the ultimate commercial production of vaccines anyway.

My personal opinion does not place the vaccine as the leverage, it is an alternative solution. The key area which I speculate is in the poultry production protocol. Bird flu outbreaks happen in Muslim countries are rather high probability, the reason is that they rely on chicken as meat source very heavily, they do not eat pork. Bangladesh not only produce for her consumption but also export to other Muslim countries, in the future Bangladesh will be more serious than Indonesia.

Nevertheless, vaccine as immediate protection seems fits to our medical framework, at least treat the symptom or possible preventive measure.

H5N1 in the cold area, especially the vector of wild bird migrating from Africa to European Continent has higher probability to have mutation by recombinant gene to become H2H strain. The threat for developed countries as scientific speculation in fact is more serious than in tropical countries. 1918 pandemics was from the US is an historical evidence. SARS outbreak was in winter season.

Back to Indonesian Health Minister issue, it finally exposed the agenda of American representative Mr. Lange�s concern in retaining IP. Business is business. Let us keep it simple.

We do not need involving with WHO to pressure? She is consistent to be very clear, � If you want to use for commercial, come to negotiate with us.� I was in Indonesia in 1993, Suharto regime, the regime without democracy had danced well with multi-corp., and international NGOs. My goodness! They had matched so well. Now Indonesia turns into more democratic country, more transparent and having her stance and speak louder, no limp like before. Please allow them to be protagonist this time. With more democratic movement, Indonesia is the excellent site of producing vaccines, 20,000 more islands, let them solve their burden and suffering, ultimately to serve the world with vaccines cheap as their shrimps. Indonesia need first class partner with ethic core value, let us bless them with win-win deal. Go ahead, excellent Biotech tycoon.

In fact, human relating vaccine production is not a funny thing, a radiation reactor at your backyard. The recent leakage of FMD virus in the UK, luckily only infected poor cow. It is a big warning! ( That is the reason that I speculate Indonesia's potential, so many isolated islands.)

Suppose Indonesia could produce reasonably fair price of vaccine thru sccessful international syndication, it is good for every one.

No pain, no gain. If the biotech company just likes sitting at home, her service is not competitive. Wall Street need a new paradigm and new appraisal framework.

we need facilitators to catalyze the process.

The west has transferred capital and industrial technology to Japan, China, Thailand etc, and has profited greatly therefrom.

Well maybe, except perhaps for companies like GM & Ford, whose cars seem to be more expensive and have a shorter period to obsolescence.

What is so different about transferring pharmaceutical tech to Indonesia? Quite correctly, paiwan states that Indonesia could produce reasonably fair price of vaccine thru sccessful international syndication, it is good for every one.

Well maybe, except perhaps for big pharma, who might lose their lucrative monopoly.

All the news lately seems very positive, and that is why I feel better now. The Indonesian Health Minister, it appears, may be working for morticians; since her actions will produce a lot of profit for them if a bird flu pandemic develops. A 60% mortality rate for human bird flu infections is not so bad, since it could be 100%. So it is good to have a positive attitude.
The article referenced above says peak oil may cause problems in the health care industry, since the entire system depends on a high energy input. A declining oil supply will negatively impact the system.
My only problem is to determine how I will pay for my funeral if I am killed by bird flu. Does anyone know if the mortician will accept an American Express Credit Card that has expired? I have one suit I could use for my funeral, but the bill collectors want it back.
If the mortician accepts my credit card, will the bill collectors dig up my casket and take back my suit after I am buried? I hope not.

For the last twenty more years, mostly I have worked in Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia and now in Thailand. Obviously, globalization has been the reality, good and bad.

Taiwan now is the number one semi-conducting producer in the world and yet has shared benefits with IP providers. It is a pretty successful story. I suppose that democracy and education have played the key factors.

Indonesia has mixed ethnic groups, though the Muslim is the majority. It had been hit by 1997 Asian Economic Storm seriously due to her corruption. Nevertheless, Indoneia is a rare demoncratic country among Muslim countries, and it has allowed East Timor independent. ( This will not happen in authoritative China for instance).

Therefore I supply a perspective more or less based on pragmatic observation from this region. I know that the tone at this moment is not positive for Indonesia regarding this dispute.

My bias is placing the hope in a country which has initiated democratic process and seriously to have a stake in global economy. Indonesia shall have a chance.

Paiwan is right about a few things here. I dont sleight the Indons for wanting a vax plant in their country. I just object to the plain and simple fact that they want us to give them another 2 billion and build it for them along with the MTA. We build them a plant ostensibly to make pandemic vax and ten years from now they are telling the West what WE are going to pay for vaccines. Its SOP to take and develop then sell back to the people who were kind enough to give you a start.

The West had to build their own plants, why shouldnt they? Thailand and Vietnam are building theirs, is Indon different?

That 200 million that was milked off of the 2 billion already given and Supari's comment that it was "only 20%" really pissed me off. Could have done a lot of surveillance, clean up, enforcement and a really big start to a vax plant on their own. I would say that they will get no more money in all likelyhood and then the bug gets to run. We all lose and they will lose the hardest, hardest in the equation for all of us is in people.

Revere gave them a bit of cover until Geneva and even his very kind hearted soul hardened a bit with this MTA thing. Bugs as life forms and if they do allow that then IMO they should be accountable to the world for their "bug". Talk about never reporting cases.... What if the world court did hold them liable for the outbreak of a pandemic? They wouldnt even report a common cold much less a panflu.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 05 Dec 2007 #permalink

Douglas Adams wrote one time "It is difficult to be sat on all day, every day, by some other creature, without forming an opinion about them. On the other hand, it is perfectly possible to sit all day, every day on top of another creature and not have the slightest thought about them whatsoever."

I don't know how one can understand the actions of Indonesia without understanding that they have been the victims of imperialism and the western countries have been the imperialists. We from our lofty status as the sitters do not wish to see what it might be like to be the sat upon.

Their behavior seems bizarre to the west, but probably seems quite sane to them, even though they are unlikely to bring the whole of the sordid past into the discussion.

In particular, but not limited to the 1965 cia coup and subsequent bloodbath

Of course the Dutch and Japan had their turns as well
And of course the upper class in Indonesia now sits on the lower class and of course the upper class pre Dutch colonization sat upon the lower class - still at present the west and in particular the US are the penultimate sitters and cannot ever understand what those being sat upon are feeling because such is the nature of sitting upon others. But oh how offended we are if someone else does even the slightest bit of pushing back.


Once I used to believe that "aid" was like "charity". I got a bit disillusioned when I heard that NZ had given several hundred millions worth of milk powder to Biafra during a famine, but that the milk powder was rotting on the wharves, because 95% of Biafrans were allergic to lactose.

Now I just see aid as (90% of the time) a government guaranteeing the investment of some industry mates, or buying and giving away a mates unsalable surplus, or just providing surplus military hardware so a dictator will continue that exclusive mining franchise.

Someone in Indonesia only got a $200 million ripoff? (although I would point out that $200 million is only 10%, not 20% as stated of $2 Billion.) It's the pot and kettle. F'r instance, ask yourself where all those fees for sub prime money went. What about the lobby system? Corruption has been a known problem with democracies since the time of Pericles.

And as for buying the vaccine back from the Indonesians in 10 years, well do you want them to work for free? If the Indonesians learn to manufacture vaccines as well as the Japanese and Koreans did with cars, then Americans will be getting cheaper and better quality vaccines than they would from big pharma.

You have the choice of helping the Indonesians who are currently well disposed to the USA, or prevaricating. I feel sure that aid could be so structured that it would be a profitable investment.


Thank you for telling me the background of MTA, now I have to alter my perspective. Because I only get information from news release, 2 billions is nearly a blackmail. Shame!

I am a business person. Turn-key, BOT or joint venture have their courses and conditions. Nothing will sustain without mutuality.

I encountered 2003 SARS' assault when I was traveling between Taiwan and Thailand. H2H is a major concern for me, unfortunately it is very likely to be happening in the places where have cold season.

Therefore, the re-focus on H2H is more relevant to me, a possible international syndication on this program is far more important than clean up Indo turbulence.

I suppose that more active participation from Biopharm's global syndication is more pragmatic than other measures.

The information of 1965 coup is interesting, thanks. Now I can understand more why Suharto regime could match well with the Western organizations in that time, I bet that the foreign policy of the US particularly has been shifting by a big lesson of entertaining dictators for selfish intentions; buying cheap oil, self-centered policy; Vietnam, Chinese KMT. The hope is the creative minority exists, so we have to work a little bit harder.

The dialogue of "I and Thou" with you pretty fits here in Indonesian case. My definition of the giver and receiver shall be blessed at the same time. Your point of past colonial damage is justified; it was "I and It".

If we maintain "I and It", then no one will be the winner. My theological model, Ha ! Can we combine with this dialogue here? The paradox is merciful and just. You have very kind speculation that is merciful, I hope that will restore Revere's soften soul again, of course including Rando's. Laugh. Meanwhile, a fair interdisciplinary has to be exercised; therefore no appeasement of wrongdoing- bad intention, faked information to be shot in the first place.

If I look back China history which had colonized wounds and been bullied to an extent, but if we look at what China now in the world stage; Darfu, Sultan and their supports for Burma junta, greedy for oil. We can not appease China any more. This is the example of paradox. ( I now do not buy any China's products, even they are very cheap.)

Indonesia has to do their parts decently!

Paiwan-Might have lead in it anyway!

Bar-You might ask Countrywide and Citibank. They were all good in the hood until they raised interest rates. How come you keep asking questions about our business practices here. Westpac has a problem as does Commonwealth...

Re: the 200 million. Thats what they admitted to. But then they said, "its only 20%". You are about the only one that picked up on that. She is by statement admitting that she KNOWS 20% was taken. She KNOWS where the money went. So the accounting so far in corruption is 200 million with a possible 400 million in the suggestion.

Like I said, she needs to start packing for Thailand. No extradition....

K-thats fair. Couldnt let the communists get a foothold in Indon in 65. That was then, this is now. We are all products of our parents mistakes.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 05 Dec 2007 #permalink

MRK: It was not my intention to pick on US business practices. Most readers of this blog probably don't know Australian scandals, which are proportionally as bad if not worse than those in the USA. Like the James Hardie asbestos scandal.

Businesses are not "bad" or "immoral". They have one function, which is to make money for shareholders. I see it as the task of government to regulate companies for the benefit of the nation. When I decry business practices, it is a constructive call for politicians to properly regulate those aspects of business. I see copyright and patent as being a huge problem, and in our system of government (and I suspect probably yours,) politicians can accept "contributions" up to $10,000 without reporting them. You have to wonder why those contributions were made.

Real estate prices in Australia are very high. You won't get much of a building block for $100,000 anywhere in Australia. In Sydney the poorest (remotest) locations are priced from $300,000 upwards. I find that strange, we are only 21 million people on a land area that is slightly larger than the contiguous states of the USA. I suspect our own housing bubble is also unstable.

The reason for the high property prices seems to be political. It is known that developers pay large sums to politicians. In Australia the state politicians control the issue of building permits.

Humanity is all one big pile of sitters and sittees. In the middle people are both - for instance the American Middle Class is increasingly being sat upon, but meantime they sit upon those farther down (they don't necessarily perceive that they do as much of this is hidden from them by the top sitters). On the bottom they allow themselves to be sat upon until they think they might die - and then they become very dangerous indeed - for people with nothing more to loose will do unexpected things - unexpected because those at the top think that the repressed poor will complain but not risk their fragile existence to protest - which is true to a point. Meanwhile the less there are on the very top, the more unstable their tenure there - as more just below are coveting the very top.

I think humans are not evolved enough to be civil in a "civilized" world.

Let us keep the focus of dialogues in the possible ice-breaking for Indo dilemma. I am aware of Australian Biotech nowadays have been pretty active, regarding their commercial research. Any successful cases of Australian investments in Indonesia, I mean in general but large enough to having global impact?
Moreover, do not need to concern too much about private sectors' context of profit making, in fact, profit is the byproduct of sustainable commercial operation, it is not the purpose. New generation executives buy into stakeholders (shareholder is one of them) formation. If the private organizations can not keep their best people by aligning the mission and purpose on long term, they will be out. In Thailand, I see Shell prevails well is a good example.

What is your definition of MIGHT?
Your comment on K, we are the products of parent's mistakes, this kind of collective script is spirit draining, I will not take it as granted for further victimization.

Paiwan.. MIGHT is IMO defined as the course of least opposition, maintaining the status quo, maximizing the profit for the entity making an assertion, minimizing it for the one affected by it, creating the most opposition for it and thereby destroying the status quo at the time it is engaged.

We are still the collective scripts of our parents mistakes. The course for most of us is laid out by those parents and only little course changes can be made by the children. In other words, would we have had a cold war if Patton had attacked the Russians in post WWII Germany? Would we have had Korea? Would we have ended up in China? Speculative of course, because none of the events happened, others did.

By M. Randolph Kruger (not verified) on 08 Dec 2007 #permalink

Je suis d'accord avec Annie au sujet de votre limite, "nuttiness". Et puis, I hope you know exactly what you wrote by considering the facts.

By Sitha Pinet (not verified) on 13 Feb 2008 #permalink