Scandal: Substandard
Poultry H5N1
Vaccine, Indonesia
Corruption Sparks Bird Flu Vaccine Test

From Patricia Doyle, PhD
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limited, so we will gradually test samples and decide which vaccine can continue to be used and which (will) have to be withdrawn from circulation," Mr Bahri said.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 tests.
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 [2004] 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 [2004] 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.
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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