Canada to step up flu vaccine research

Fri Jun 5, 2009 12:31pm EDT
 
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TORONTO (Reuters) - Canadian health officials created a network of researchers on Friday to speed up influenza research, saying they will test new vaccines against the H1N1 flu.

The network of 80 scientists from 30 research and public health institutions will get C$10.8 million ($9.7 million) over three years, Health Minister Leona Aglukkaq said.

"We have put this research network in place ahead of schedule to help us respond to the current flu outbreak," she said.

"Through this network, scientists from across the country will play a critical role in helping to protect the health of Canadians and their families."

The new strain of H1N1 swine flu has infected 1,795 Canadians and killed three. While it is mild now, global health officials fear it could turn into a more virulent form.

"So far, the impact has been relatively mild here in Canada but we must be vigilant and we must be ready to respond, and of course research will play a major role in this," Aglukkaq said at a news conference.

Globally, the new strain has been confirmed in 21,940 people and has killed 125, although U.S. health officials say they suspect more than 200,000 people there are infected.

The World Health Organization and other health authorities have not decided whether a vaccine against the new H1N1 strain will be needed but many companies are starting to work on one.

"The decision in regard to the vaccine will be made shortly. It requires a global response. We are working with the WHO and the affected international communities on that," Aglukkaq said.   Continued...