Source AP ©

Baxter to carry out clinical trial of bird flu vaccine

Baxter Healthcare Corp., the U.S. drug manufacturer, was said to carry out clinical trials of a bird flu vaccine in Indonesia in July. The country will initially stockpile 2 million doses.

"But when we are getting closer to a pandemic, we will move to stockpile at least 20 million," Siti Fadilah Supari told The Associated Press late Tuesday, adding that she "hopes that will never happen."

Bird flu has killed at least 186 people since it began ravaging Asian poultry stocks in 2003, two out of five of them Indonesians, according to the World Health Organization. It remains hard for people to catch, but experts fear it could mutate into a form that spreads easily among people, potentially sparking a pandemic that could kill millions worldwide.

Under a tentative deal reached in February, Indonesia agreed to provide Baxter with samples of its H5N1 virus in exchange for the drug manufacturer's expertise in vaccine production.

Supari said Baxter's "clinical trial involving hundreds of participants will start in July" and should be concluded by October.

Baxter is now able to produce 3 million doses of the vaccine per week, she said, declining to say whether Indonesia has a ready stockpile at present.

The Deefield, Illinois-based company was not immediately available to comment.