Tuesday, September 06, 2011
Beijing pressured the SAR government to stop University of Hong Kong microbiologists from doing research into the mainland-made H5N1 vaccine – blamed for spreading the virus in poultry Asia-wide – according to US diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.
The SAR government is currently studying whether it is better to use mainland-produced H5N1 vaccine from Harbin for mandatory vaccination of local poultry, or continue to use the Dutch-made Intervet Nobilis H5N2 vaccine.
The study was prompted by the outbreak of H5N1 in a Yuen Long farm in 2008, despite the vaccination of local poultry since 2003 as part of anti- bird flu measures. The documents uploaded on WikiLeaks showed grave concern from flu experts about mainland – produced bird flu vaccines for poultry.
In meetings with visiting US Department of Health and Human Services from December 28, 2005, to January 1, 2006, internationally renowned flu experts Robert Webster, Malik Peiris and Guan Yi – all from HKU – said the mainland vaccines had not been effective and may have actually driven the evolution of the AI (avian influenza) virus. Corruption was hampering the overall production of effective vaccines, they told the visiting official, Stewart Simonson.
Webster “further alleged that pressure from [China’s] Ministry of Agriculture had forced the [HK Food and Environmental Hygiene Department] to interfere with HKU efforts to acquire samples of China’s AI poultry vaccine,” (Snip)
The HKU team said they would release a study showing the distribution of bird flu among poultry in China is “much more extensive than the Chinese government has reported, and will `prove’ that the lineage of AI strains in Vietnam can be directly traced back to specific provinces in China.”
Last night, Guan Yi said he could not recall as far back as 2005-06, and he has continued to work with Webster. Peiris could not be reached.
The SAR government said it has no comment on the claims.