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Influenza, Pandemic, Justice, World Health Organization, Indonesia


Indonesia’s December 2006 decision to stop sending influenza virus specimens to the World Health Organization’s Global Influenza Surveillance Network (GISN) captured international attention. At the time, the H5N1 subtype of influenza A virus was predicted to be the basis for the next pandemic. While many accused Indonesia - the country most afflicted by the virus - of putting the rest of the world in peril by withholding virus samples, Indonesia maintained that GISN was unjust for failing to ensure equitable access to vaccines developed using those samples. The H5N1 pandemic threat eventually waned, yet international negotiations to create a just framework for “sharing influenza viruses and other benefits” are ongoing.

In this paper, we critically evaluate Indonesia’s claims about the unjustness of GISN. We argue in favour of Indonesia’s position and conclude that GISN must be significantly altered so that it properly recognizes the values of ownership, contribution, reciprocity, and human rights.


Research funded by the Canadian Institutes of Health Research Grant No. PAN83161, “Pandemic Planning and Foundational Questions of Justice, the Common Good and the Public Interest.” Thanks go to Françoise Baylis, Josephine Johnston, and Anthony Skelton as well as members of Novel Tech Ethics at Dalhousie University for helpful comments on an earlier draft of the paper.