H5N1: The Develop Of Vaccines For All Animal Influenza Strains

This past week, incoming World Health Organization (WHO) chief scientist Jeremy Farrar stated that governments should start investing in vaccines for all animal strains of the influenza virus that exist. Farrar expressed that countries all over the world have lost poultry due to outbreaks of avian flu, and that this would act as an insurance policy if there was an outbreak in humans. The question at hand is if nothing is done with the information coming from WHO, will there be regret later if an outbreak does occur?

According to Reuters, Farrar is a clinical scientist who was appointed as the WHO’s chief scientist in December but will formally join the later this year. In a statement made to the Guardian, Farrar said that “the current pandemic of avian H5N1 is a really concerning issue,” and that “if we allow an avian virus to which none of us has got any immunity to continue to circulate in birds and then increasingly…come across into the mammalian sector…there’s a risk.” In a press briefing made in London, he stated that “if there was an outbreak in Europe, the Middle East, America or Mexico tomorrow of H5N1 in humans, we wouldn’t be able to vaccinate the world within 2023.” He argues that governments should invest in having vaccines for the virus, and that the pharmaceutical industry should start conducting some trials for all strains of influenza in the animal kingdom influenza if a human outbreak occurs.

Earlier this month, the WHO also stated that they are monitoring the spread to mammals of bird flu, or H5N1, but there is still a low risk to humans. However, Farrar describes the avian H5N1 virus as the biggest pandemic threat that the world faces since Covid-19 and argues that if an outbreak were to happen, the world would have to question why they didn’t do more.

Starting with clinical trials now can prepare the world for an outbreak in the future, and determine if there is a need to globally manufacture a vaccine. While surveillance measures to identity the disease are in place, more needs to be done to address the potential threat. There was no preparation for the Covid-19 pandemic, but there can be for future viruses or infections.

Bird flu is proven to jump from animals to humans, and clearly poses as a threat to public health and is something that needs to be taken seriously. According to The Telegraph, H5N1 was first reported in the Far East almost 20 years ago and has spread to poultry and wild birds around the world. The worry is that the virus has now spread to more types of birds and mammals. The Guardian stated that avian H5N1 has affected wild animals such as foxes and otters and a few farm workers in Europe have tested positive, although they have been asymptomatic. Furthermore, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control stated that its fatality rate for humans infected with H5N1 is close to 50%, making it a cause for concern.

It is imperative that scientists all over the world listen to Farrar. The Covid-19 pandemic proved detrimental to every country in the world and continues to do so in China. The world is at risk of enduring another catastrophic pandemic if scientists don’t pay attention to the warnings. Farrar is providing the information needed to get ahead of it now, and his advice could save a lot of lives in the future.