Sanofi Pasteur, the world's third-largest pharmaceutical firm together with the Public Health Ministry have reached an initial agreement to conduct joint trials on an avian flu vaccine, which could be used on humans early next year.
According to Tawee Chotpitayasunondh, a member of the ministry's human avian flu study panel the vaccine trial is planned to be conducted on children aged six months to 18 years owing to the increased susceptibility of the young to a flu pandemic than adults.
Negotiations have been going on between the ministry and the firm following the abortion of the vaccine trial deal with Japan against the H5N1 strain of bird flu virus last month.
Following the meeting for the Influenza Pandemic Preparedness held in Pattaya, Dr Tawee asserted the need for further study on developing an H5N1 vaccine for humans because of the various forms that existed of the avian flu virus which could mean that a vaccine formula which was effective in Thailand and Vietnam might not be in Indonesia and China.
Medical director of sanofi pasteur, Sunate Chuenkitmongkol declared that the company planned to launch H5N1 vaccine trials on humans early next year.
The vaccine trials on children are expected to take around six months to a year. Approval for the project was also pending from the national committee on human vaccine trial ethics. Negotiations for a benefit-sharing agreement between the Public Health Ministry and the firm are also on.
Thailand would be the first country in Southeast Asia to conduct H5N1 vaccine trials on children following the approval.
Chuenkitmongkol said,''The vaccine trials aim to find proper doses of the vaccine to help the body to generate immunity against the disease. The trials will also let us know proper timing for vaccinations.''
In the meantime caretaker Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra has instructed health and livestock officials not to lower their guard against bird flu.
Mr Thaksin stated that he did not want to see bird flu return again after the country had successfully controlled it and had earned recognition from the international community.