Biopiracy and Vaccines: Indonesia and the WHO Pandemic Influenza Plan

by Mariah Tso

Viral sample sharing plays a vital role in preparing pre-pandemic vaccines. However, such efforts to fight diseases raise key moral questions. In 2007, competing paradigms between developed and developing nations led Indonesia to briefly stop sharing viral samples of influenza strains with the World Health Organization (WHO). Smallman examines the conflicting interests and viewpoints of the dispute and the World Health Organization’s resolution strategies. According to Smallman, developed countries framed their argument on the basis of international law that required developing countries to share samples in order to support global health security, whereas developing countries framed the dispute as a form of biopiracy that maintained neocolonial relationships. The biopiracy argument allowed Indonesia to apply pressure to international organizations by portraying them as neo-imperial agents, therefore WHO was forced to act in order to maintain their credibility. Ultimately the WHO’s Pandemic Influenza Preparedness (PIP) report, ended the dispute through its benefits sharing model and by reforming the virus sharing system. Smallman concludes that the benefits-sharing model integral to PIP will likely serve as a model for future agreements regarding similar issues in the future. Continue reading