View Full Version : Indonesia halts U.S. naval lab's activities
09-25-2008, 04:35 AM
Indonesia halts U.S. naval lab's activities
25 Sep 2008 08:01:39 GMT
JAKARTA, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Indonesia has halted the activities of a U.S. naval medical lab in Jakarta following a dispute over the terms of a contract, the health minister said on Thursday.
The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2 has been key to efforts to track bird flu in Indonesia, the country with the most human deaths from the H5N1 virus.
But a memorandum of understanding allowing the lab to operate in Jakarta expired two years ago and was not renewed as a dispute arose over Indonesia's sharing of samples of H5N1 with the rest of the world.
"They are not allowed to do any activities anymore," Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari told Reuters by phone. "The term is suspension, but there are no activities at all now."
Earlier in April, she said the lab was not very beneficial to Indonesia because it refused to share all its findings with the host country.
Retno Marsudi, Indonesian directorate general for America and Europe relations, said the contract with Washington to operate the lab had not been terminated.
A U.S. embassy spokesman in Jakarta declined to comment.
Indonesia ordered hospitals and labs in the country to stop supplying bird flu samples to the American lab early this year and now only reports bird flu cases in humans to public every six months, a move some scientists say could lead to delays in containing outbreaks of the disease.
Jakarta has also refused to share bird flu samples, saying it wants guarantees from richer nations and drugmakers that poor countries would get access to affordable vaccines developed from their samples.
International health experts say it is vital to have access to samples of the constantly mutating H5N1 virus, which they fear could change into a form easily transmissible among humans and sweep the world in months, killing millions of people.
Indonesia has suffered 112 casualties from the virus.
09-26-2008, 02:55 AM
RI shuts down U.S. medical laboratory
Abdul Khalik, The Jakarta Post, Jakarta
The U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit number 2 (Namru-2) laboratory in Jakarta will be temporarily shut down because it offers "little benefit" to Indonesia, Health Minister Siti Fadilah Supari said Thursday.
"They are not allowed to conduct any activities anymore. The term is suspension, but there are no activities at all now," she was quoted as saying by Reuters.
Siti, Indonesia's senior-most medical official, said she staunchly opposed the medical lab and called for its closure, arguing that it did not benefit national interests and even compromised national security.
Siti said the lab refused to share all of its findings with the host country.
Indonesia and the U.S. ceased negotiations on the future of the lab in June after officials and legislators proved unable to agree whether the lab, active since 1970, should continue its operations in Indonesia.
The Indonesian Foreign Ministry said the temporary closure of the lab was not contentious as negotiations between the two sides were ongoing.
"As long as we are still negotiating a new umbrella agreement for Namru, the termination of activities is no problem," Foreign Ministry spokesman Teuku Faizasyah told The Jakarta Post by phone from New York.
The halt in activities does not mean the lab will be closed permanently as the contract with Washington to operate the lab has not yet terminated, another Indonesian Foreign Ministry official said.
"We still have a contract. Although it was terminated in 2000, then President Abdurahman Wahid revived it," ministry director general for relations with America and Europe Retno P. Marsudi said.
The U.S. and Indonesia have yet to resume talks since the June negotiations breakdown, she said.
The negotiations were complicated by an international dispute over how to share crucial bird flu samples.
U.S. Health and Human Services Secretary Michael Leavitt has said the quarrel over Indonesia's refusal to share its samples of the H5N1 avian influenza virus with the rest of the world has spilled into the Namru talks.
Siti earlier forbid samples of the virus to be shipped outside of Indonesia, citing that rich nations and pharmaceutical companies would benefit by using the samples to develop vaccines that poor countries would not be able to afford.
Many international observers have said Namru is central to Indonesia's early efforts to track mutations of H5N1, which is feared may become transmissible among humans with the potential for it to sweep the world in months and kill millions.
Indonesia has suffered 112 deaths from the virus, making it the country with the highest death toll.
"little benefit" is better than no benefit.
Is the real reason the fear of "virus theft" ?
Or just some revanchism because they were not satisfied with some
other things ?
09-26-2008, 04:08 AM
Seems like the next step in the ongoing negotiations.
09-27-2008, 05:11 AM
ProMed comments on the situation.
Contains a list of Namru-2's activities beside AI.
[From the 2nd newswire above, it is unclear whether all activities of
the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2 [NAMRU-2] are suspended or
just the activities surrounding avian influenza virus, albeit the
article in the Jakarta Post seems to strongly suggest that all
activities are presently suspended.
NAMRU-2 has been collaborating with the Indonesian Ministry of
Health, the Indonesian National Institute of Health Research and
Development, and the Indonesian Center for Disease Control. These
joint activities have included collaborative research on diseases of
public health significance and in disaster relief in the wake of the
2004 Sumatra tsunami and the 2005 Central Java earthquake. Research
activities have included the field of emerging infectious diseases,
diarrheal disease morbidity and mortality, with studies to identify
bacterial and viral etiologic agents of acute diarrhea, monitoring
antimicrobial resistance of bacterial agents associated with
diarrhea, sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and febrile illnesses,
evaluations of field applicable diagnostic assays, studies on all
components of malaria, vaccine development, vectors, antimalarials,
and, within the field of virology, arboviruses such as dengue,
chikungunya, and Japanese encephalitis, and hemorrhagic fever
viruses, such as hantaviruses, and HIV vaccine development.
NAMRU-2 is collaborating in other countries in Southeast Asia,
including Viet Nam, Laos, Singapore, the Philippines, Thailand, and
Cambodia, and a satellite laboratory was opened in Cambodia to
conduct regional infectious disease outbreak research and diagnostic
laboratory support. In a region with a limited laboratory support
network, its presence has been considered a tremendous asset to the
region. - Mod.MPP]
10-11-2008, 10:59 AM
NAMRU-2 is still up and running
Thanks to the reader who sent the link to this notice from the US Army's Health Information Operations Weekly Update:
Clarification regarding NAMRU-2
Last week’s HIO Weekly Update included an article about Naval Medical Research Unit-2 in Jakarta, Indonesia that Reuters titled “Indonesia halts U.S. naval lab's activities.”
Despite the misleading title, the article also stated that, “Retno Marsudi, Indonesian directorate general for America and Europe relations, said the contract with Washington to operate the lab had not been terminated.”
In addition, feedback from informed sources indicates that, “While the Minister of Health continues to report that they have closed, they continue to operate and to negotiate with the President's Office on continuing operations.” We regret any confusion.
US controls bird flu vaccines over bio-weapon fears
When Indonesia's health minister stopped sending bird flu viruses to a research laboratory in the US for fear Washington could use them to make biological weapons, Defence Secretary Robert Gates laughed and called it "the nuttiest thing" he'd ever heard.
Yet deep inside an 86-page supplement to United States export regulations is a single sentence that bars US exports of vaccines for avian bird flu and dozens of other viruses to five countries designated "state sponsors of terrorism."
The reason: Fear that they will be used for biological warfare.
Under this little-known policy, North Korea, Iran, Cuba, Syria and Sudan may not get the vaccines unless they apply for special export licenses, which would be given or refused according to the discretion and timing of the US. Three of those nations — Iran, Cuba and Sudan — also are subject to a ban on all human pandemic influenza vaccines as part of a general US embargo.
The regulations, which cover vaccines for everything from Dengue fever to the Ebola virus, have raised concern within the medical and scientific communities. Although they were quietly put in place more than a decade ago, they could now be more relevant because of recent concerns about bird flu. Officials from the US Department of Health and Human Services and the Centres for Disease Control and Prevention said they were not even aware of the policies until contacted by The Associated Press last month and privately expressed alarm.
They make "no scientific sense," said Peter Palese, chairman of the microbiology department at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York. He said the bird flu vaccine, for example, can be used to contain outbreaks in poultry before they mutate to a form spread more easily between people.
"The more vaccines out there, the better," he said. "It's a matter of protecting ourselves, really, so the bird flu virus doesn't take hold in these countries and spread."
US Commerce Assistant Secretary Christopher Wall declined to elaborate on the precise threat posed by vaccines for chickens infected with avian influenza, except to say there are "valid security concerns" that they "do not fall into the wrong hands."
"Legitimate public health and scientific research is not adversely affected by these controls," he said.
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