National Strategies on Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Preparation for Thailand

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01 January 2007
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There are currently reports on epidemics of highly pathogenic avian influenza virus in many regions.A new wave of pandemic seasonal flu is also predicted since it has now been over 30 years from its last incident. These have stimulated concerns about an influenza pandemic globally that is predicted to cause millions of deaths and have a major socio-economic impact on Thailand, which is among the countries affected by the virus, both in animals and humans. The first national strategic plan for avian influenza prevention and control, 2005-2007 was therefore launched.

Since vaccine usage is one of the main strategies in disease prevention, a working team, including the National Center of Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (BIOTEC, NSTDA) and the Health Systems Research Institute ( HSRI, Thailand Ministry of Public Health) was designated to responsible for a feasibility analysis on “National Strategies on Pandemic Influenza Vaccine Preparation for Thailand”. The strategic plan is proposed according to the time frame for short-, intermediate- and long- term preparations.

The short-term plan focuses on importing vaccine. The intermediate plan is domestic vaccine production to ensure vaccine availability and accessibility for the Thais.This is to start up the production in the shortest possible time by modification of existing vaccine manufacturing facilities. For long term sustainability of influenza vaccine production, an investment of a new vaccine plant is proposed.

Four avian influenza outbreaks in Thailand were reported in 2004, and caused major damage to the Thai poultry industry. Over 30 millions chicken were killed. The virus crossed the species barrier to infect humans and 17 people died. The Royal Thai Government has taken this threat seriously and put immense resources and efforts into controlling this outbreak and preventing the possibility of a pandemic. The Prime Minister has established a multisectoral public-private National Committee on Avian Influenza Control, chaired by the Deputy Prime Minister Jaturon Chaisaeng. The committee is mandated to tackle the problem in an integrated , holistic and sustainable manner.

The committee thus developed Thailand’s National Strategic Plans for Avian Influenza Control and Influenza Pandemic Preparedness, 2005-2007. The plans were endorsed by the cabinet on 25th January 2005. NSTDA was responsible for knowledge generation and management. Subsequently, in 2007, the Deputy Prime Minister Kosit Panpiumrat appointed the working group to formulate a second national strategic plan to ensure the continuity and sustainability of a proper preparedness for an avian influenza pandemic. 

This policy recommendation paper is an output of the work on knowledge generation and management. Scientific knowledge and technical developments of influenza vaccine manufacturing in Thailand were previously scarce. The team gathered information from experts and organizations, both national and international, in forms of both tacit knowledge and explicit knowledge, and then a feasibility analysis was performed for policy recommendations on an influenza vaccine preparation that is suitable for Thailand.

It is our hope that this paper will be of value and benefit to policy decision making for Thailand’s pandemic influenza vaccine preparation.