Press release from Caroline Lucas, Green MEP SE England:
EURO-MPs VOTE FOR MEASURES TO CONTROL BIRD ‘FLU
MEP WARNS: DON’T REPEAT FOOT AND MOUTH BLUNDERS OVER BIRD ‘FLU
THE European Parliament has voted to adopt a package of emergency measures prevent avian flu mutating and triggering an epidemic of human influenza in the EU.
MEPs have called on EU member states to co-operate on preparing for an avian flu outbreak, to share information and anti-viral drug supplies and to increase the level of ‘standard’ ’flu vaccination.
The Parliament also adopted Green proposals to offer all poultry farm workers standard ‘flu vaccines to reduce the risk of avian flu spreading to humans – but rejected calls for drug companies to relax patents on anti-viral drugs to allow production of generic alternatives in poorer countries, and systematic screening of air filters from flights originating in countries affected by the virus.
Green MEP Caroline Lucas said she was pleased the Parliament had accepted the Green proposal to offer ‘flu vaccines to all poultry workers, and to co-operate fully on planning and communication to avoid making the same mistakes as during the 2001 Foot And Mouth disease (FMD) outbreak.
“MEPs have today shown they are serious not only about trying to prevent an influenza pandemic but also about planning and communicating effectively to ensure the EU learns from the UK’s disastrous handling of the 2001 FMD epidemic.”
Dr Lucas, who was Vice-President of the European Parliament’s Committee of Inquiry into the UK’s handling of the FMD epidemic, added: “Millions of healthy animals were slaughtered needlessly and – some four five years later – many rural communities and farmers are yet to recover from the economic and psychological impact of the Government’s poor handling of FMD.
“The Government and EU must learn the lessons of recent history and make sure public health and the welfare of affected communities take precedence over market interests.”
She added that she was disappointed MEPs had rejected an amendment to call on the manufacturers of anti-viral drugs to allow the production of cheaper, generic alternatives in poorer countries and for the EU to provide greater support to developing countries affected by the virus.
She said: “I’m concerned that we are in danger of forgetting that the greatest risk for an influenza pandemic is from Asian countries, and that we should provide greater support for these countries – both because it’s in the EU’s own interests – but also, crucially, because it’s required in the interests of international solidarity.”