London: Jeremy Farrar, the incoming chief scientist of the World Health Organization said on Monday that governments should invest in vaccines for all strains of the influenza virus that exist among animals as a safeguard in case of an outbreak in humans.
The recent spread to mammals of H5N1 – commonly known as bird flu – also needed to be strictly monitored, but the risk to humans remained low, the WHO had said earlier this month.
Countries ranging from the United States and Britain to France and Japan have suffered record losses of poultry with outbreaks of avian flu in the past year.
Farrar said he would like to see the pharmaceutical industry at least conduct some clinical trials for all influenza strains so that the world would not have to start from scratch to initiate global manufacturing should the need arise in the event of diseases such as bird flu and swine flu spreading to humans.
“My concern is that we’re in slow motion watching something which may never happen,” he added in a media briefing.
“But if it were to happen, would we look back on what we’re doing at the moment and say, why didn’t we do more?” the new chief scientist of the global health watchdog asked.
Farrar is a clinical scientist who most recently served as the director of the Wellcome Trust. He was appointed as the WHO’s chief scientist in December, and will formally join the agency later this year.