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Cablegate: Romania: Request for H1n1 Vaccine Assistance

VZCZCXRO9493
OO RUEHIK
DE RUEHBM #0742 3090444
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
O 050444Z NOV 09
FM AMEMBASSY BUCHAREST
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 0037
RUEAUSA/DEPT OF HHS WASHINGTON DC IMMEDIATE
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE IMMEDIATE
RUEHPH/CDC ATLANTA GA IMMEDIATE

UNCLAS BUCHAREST 000742

SENSITIVE

STATE FOR EUR A/S GORDON AND EUR/CE ASCHEIBE
ALSO FOR OES/IHB SBOGGESS, RSORENSON, AND CSHAPIRO
HHS FOR DMILLER, JMARINISSEN, AND BGELLIN

SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: ECON EINV TBIO PGOV SOCI AMED RO
SUBJECT: ROMANIA: REQUEST FOR H1N1 VACCINE ASSISTANCE

REF: A) STATE 111924 B) BUCHAREST 673

Sensitive but Unclassified; not for Internet distribution.

1. (SBU) This is an urgent action request; please see paragraph 5.

2. (SBU) The Ambassador was contacted on November 4 by Anca
Ilinoiu, Senior Foreign Policy adviser to President Traian Basescu,
with a "personal request from the President to President Obama" that
the United States agree to provide Romania with one million doses of
approved H1N1 vaccine, in exchange for which Romania proposes to
deliver an equivalent number of Romanian-produced doses when the
domestically produced vaccine receives final approval, probably by
the end of November. Ilinoiu explained that H1N1 has become a major
public health concern in the last few days, with a spike in reported
cases (up to 555 confirmed as of November 3, with the real number
suspected to be higher, though no fatalities to date). Romania is
also closely monitoring the situation in neighboring Ukraine and
Moldova, with a high infection rate and several dozen H1N1-related
deaths in western Ukraine of particular concern to Romanian health
authorities, Ilinoiu said.

3. (SBU) This request comes against the backdrop of sensationalist
news headlines and growing unease in Romania over H1N1. Romanian
confidence in the decrepit public health system is very low, and the
quick uptick in cases has come in concert with public finger
pointing among presidential candidates over H1N1 preparations,
particularly with the Ministry of Health under caretaker supervision
by the Minister of Economy. Romania's government-run Cantacuzino
Institute is already manufacturing a vaccine, but the Government has
been caught flat-footed with at least one million vaccine doses on
hand but no final regulatory approval to allow distribution. Plans
by the Ministry of Health to attempt commercial purchases of already
approved H1N1 vaccine were halted once it became clear that no
outside vaccine would be available for purchase until sometime in
2010.

4. (SBU) Post understands from Ref A that Romania is not on a
priority list of countries to receive donated vaccine doses from the
WHO. However, in this case, Romania is requesting a one-for-one
swap, not donated stocks. The Cantacuzino National Infectious
Disease Research Institute, which is producing the Romanian version
of H1N1 vaccine, has a long history of fruitful cooperation with the
U.S. and European Centers for Disease Control, and the vaccine they
are manufacturing will likely receive regulatory approval in the
coming weeks.

5. (SBU) Action Request: Post requests guidance from Washington
agencies on how to respond to this urgent request from the Romanian
President. If some kind of swap of vaccines is feasible --
including a possibility that Romania could contribute vaccines to
the WHO effort to supplement U.S. contributions, especially if we
can urge Ukraine to take advantage of the fact that they are on the
list of countries eligible for WHO assistance for vaccines -- post
requests Washington's advice on how the Romanians might conclude
such an arrangement.

GITENSTEIN

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