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Epidemic of Indonesian Health Ministry insanity grows as NAMRU-2 banned

Over the last fifteen months, we have seen an entire national governmental health establishment's slow roll and spiraling descent into madness.  The nation I am referring to is Indonesia.  Granted, that nation has a lot on its plate, which I have covered ample times (just use search keyword Indonesia on my blogsite and settle back for a few hours' worth of reading).

But that descent into madness at the Health Ministry has accelerated.  First came the January, 2007 decision to withhold H5N1 human virus samples from the WHO and CDC.  Then came Health Minister Supari's book, in which she claimed that the United States government was making a WMD out of bird flu.  Clearly she must have been watching The Stand and thought it was a documentary!  Slowly but boldly, some of her own scientists have been criticizing her utter stupidity.  Even the Indonesian president, who wrote the forward to her book, has expressed profound regret.

Today, the Navy Times is reporting that the Indonesian Health Ministry has banned NAMRU-2 from operating in their country.  Here is the story:

Indonesia bans Navy medical research unit

 Kyodo News Agency
Posted : Thursday Apr 10, 2008 7:10:53 EDT

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The Indonesian government has banned the U.S. Naval Medical Research Unit No. 2, or NAMRU-2 — which is studying infectious diseases in Southeast Asia, including bird flu — from operating in the country, an evening newspaper said Thursday. The reason behind the ban was not immediately clear.

Sinar Harapan daily reported that a note on the ban, signed by Triono Soendoro, director of the Health Research and Development Agency of the Health Ministry, had been circulated among several ministries.

“It [NAMRU-2] has been banned to operate here. Sorry, but I can’t comment further,” the newspaper quoted Soendoro as saying.

Health Ministry spokesman Soemardi also refused to confirm the report.

“I haven’t received any information about that,” he told Kyodo News.

The ban follows the publication of a book by Health Minister Siti Rahil Fadilah Supari, in which she accused the World Health Organization and the U.S. government of trying to profit from the spread of bird flu. NAMRU-2 began investigating the disease after initial cases were identified in Indonesia in 2004.

In the book, “It’s Time for the World to Change,” Supari claimed WHO laboratories forward avian influenza specimens to western countries that make vaccines and then profit from their sale back to the affected countries.

As of Tuesday, bird flu had infected at least 379 people in 14 countries since its re-emergence in December 2003. According to WHO data, 239 of them have died.

Indonesia leads the table with 107 deaths, followed by Vietnam with 52 and Egypt with 21.

The other affected countries are Azerbaijan, Cambodia, China, Djibouti, Iraq, Laos, Myanmar, Nigeria, Pakistan, Thailand and Turkey.

The NAMRU-2 Detachment was established in Indonesia in 1970 and is one of the most advanced facilities of its kind in Southeast Asia. Its work was done in cooperation with and under the auspices of the Indonesian Health Research and Development Agency.


NAMRU is, of course, the network of US Navy research labs around the world.  In a blog from last July, I spent a couple of paragraphs talking about NAMRU-3, which technically did not even close during the various Arab-Israeli wars!  Although US personnel were asked to leave for awhile, the lab stayed open using its Egyptian staff. 

Now imagine this:  Even when it looked like the world was going to go down in the nuclear flames of Hell itself, NAMRU-3 stayed open.  We were at the highest DEFCON state the nation has ever seen.  Conditions were worse, and military and government sphincters were tighter, then during the Cuban Missle Crisis.  And even then, the Egyptians themselves kept a US Navy research facility open!

Now look at the events of today.  The Indonesian health ministry has banned NAMRU-2 from doing any work.  No virus research.  No work on other infectious diseases such as chikungunya, malaria or dengue.  None whatsoever.

Psychologists would do well to study this latest exercise in Indonesian governmental insanity.  I don't know if this is some sort of suicidal gesture, or maybe more akin to the ritual disfigurement that addicts of methamphetamine do to themselves.  Whatever it is, it is time the rest of the world really took notice.

This action must be protested to the Indonesian ambassador.  It must be protested to the United Nations.  It is time the world understood esactly what the consequences are if this nation continues to behave as if it were alone in this fight. 

And chief among Indonesia's governmental sins is the sin of ingratitude.  We just gave the Tangerang government over a million and a half US dollars to help eradicate bird flu and teach people about personal responsibility in the fight.  American goodwill translated into millions and millions of private dollars -- and billions in worldwide government and corporate aid -- to help the tsunami victims back in December, 2004. 

The British government just announced that above all threats, a flu pandemic sits at Number One.  The United States has a policy of pursuing any and all diplomatic actions against nations that harbor terrorists.  Maybe it's time we thought of terrorism in viral terms, and took action against those nations that, via their incompetence and insanity, allow such things as H5N1 to foment within its human and avian populations.

Thanks and props to Crof and FLA_MEDIC for posting the news on their blogsites.

Reader Comments (6)

The only company successful in creating a vacine for bird flu is Chinese. Sinovac Biotech (SVA). See following story knowing the original vacine came from SVA.


Oddly, earlier this year I saw an article where (late last year)the SVA CEO/Pres advised they had stopped workng on the vacine until there was more demand (I read at the time - opportunity to make money).
Recently they published the Chinese government had both approved their product and the manufacture of same AT THE SAME TIME! VERY UNUSUAL.
But only for sale to the Chinese government for stockpiling.
The vacine works on various strains of the bird flu. Additionally, they are using the vacine in Bejing now where the city's vaccination program has grow about 950% over last year.
Indonesia's Health Minister Sapari is pointing to the United States as creating a weapon with Bird Flu. Is her rational crazy? Sure, but see how it dovetails with the following.
What if a group of Eastern countries vaccinate their own citizens and denies other countries (Western) the opportunity to buy or license the vaccine at any price?
Then, what if there is a pandamic and the vacinated Eastern countries have little loss of life but the Western countries not vaccinated lose 50% of their people (75%) of their youth.
Furthermore, what if the pandemic originated in those Eastern countries that had the vaccine????

Is that considered a chemical weapon? Is that an act of agression??

There is a differencce between a country generating diseases and keeping them to themselves, other countries creating vaccines to protect themselves from another
country's diseases and charging the disease generating country for the cost in creating the vaccine. But for a country or countries to create a vacine for a disease of their own making and denying other countries protection from said disease??

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRod

To answer your question,
Yes, they are crazy. First, it is somewhat arrogant of them to think the Clade 2.1 strain alone will cause the pandemic. It could be Fujian, Qinghai, or another clade we haven't seen yet. In that case, the Clade 2.1 strain vaccine may be essentially worthless and only provide marginal protection. I agree with you the Chinese trivalent H5N1 vaccine makes more sense.

If my scenario should develop and Clade 2.1 is not the pandemic strain, should we say that Indonesia had their chance to play nice in the sandbox, and they get no vaccine? That would be tit for tat, quid pro quo. They made their bed, now they can lay in it!

Of course, we will not say that. But we will not vaccinate Indonesians over Americans at that point, because we will all be in the second or third wave of a pandemic, and vaccines will be only good to keep the few unexposed away from fatal risk. In Asia, the damage will have already been done. Vaccines will be an afterthought in Wave Three, welcomed against further mutation but powerless to stop the suffering that happened before the vials arrived.

That is what the Indonesian government does not understand. By refusing to collaborate, they are putting the entire world at risk. They are also emboldening other "developing" nations to follow suit, meaning less and less surveillance in precisely the same areas where surveillance is so desperately needed.

Surveillance without samples is a meaningless exercise. It is akin to watching a train wreck and not being able to do anything about it except count the bodies.

The reason for viral samples is above all else, to look for those clues as to the possible mutation of H5N1 into a person-transmitted virus.

If an Australian company made an attempt at a vaccine based solely on Indonesian viral DNA (which did happen and actually triggered this whole fiasco), then Indonesia should have sued the company, not put the entire world at risk. They could have called in the Australian ambassador and reamed him/her up one side and down the other.

There is more at work here, and I feel it may be connected more with Islamic fervor and anti-American sentiment than with any claim of intellectual property. We should be very, very worried about Indonesia's incompetent negligence creating a WMD worse than any sinister effort Supari's mind might have us make. Interesting hypothetical that these nations may well be developing vaccine in order to "outlast" the West. But I also can see James Bond-types in bunny suits, swabbing the mouths and noses of sick Indonesians just in advance of the military, breaking off the Q-tips into vials and sending them via porpises to US navy submarines lieing in wait just off the coast of Jakarta. Actually, I kinda hope that is going on right now!

Thanks for the comments,

April 10, 2008 | Registered CommenterScott McPherson

Scott, have been reading your blog with greater frequency and it's growing on me. So often we run into or come across blogs that are ego laden that I have to "Take 5" and not go to them for awhile.
It is an addiction thing too, much like alcohol can be.
Anyway, with that said I want to say I enjoy your particular style of writing, even if you're an east coaster (that's intended to be funny!).

You said in your comment above: "and I feel it may be connected more with Islamic fervor and anti-American sentiment than with any claim of intellectual property".
All I can say at this point is thank you for your honesty and insight. This has been my take on the situation as well however, I'm not the type that usually can put their thoughts into proper words.

April 10, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLea


The crux of my post is the chinese already have a vaccine that works on all clades. The chinese man who's son died was dying even after antivirals until the gave him plasma from a woman who had participated in Sinovac's panflu test program. Then he recovered. Additionally, it was not a match of the virus and birdflu vaccine. The virus was clade 2.3.4. The vaccine clade 1, recovered from vietnam in 2004.

So why isn't this news?? Not only that, but the company Sinovac is not mentioning it in the press releases. Normally, their stock would be going through the roof. Additionally, they are not mentioning their search for an additional 80 employees to up production, not even mentioning upping production or that they have received an order from the chinese government. Yet, as mentioned in my earlier post, they are vaccinating Bejing (950%) increase in people being vacinated.

Think about it!

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterRod

No reason to think for me Rod, understand what you're saying. The chinese are more corrupt than the american government.
Studied the take over of Tibet by the Communist chinese in the 70's. They are, well, evil. Where do you think the word Red Chinese came from?
Red is a aggressive color.

April 11, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterLea

Scott McPherson, "If an Australian company made an attempt at a vaccine based solely on Indonesian viral DNA (which did happen and actually triggered this whole fiasco), then Indonesia should have sued the company, not put the entire world at risk. They could have called in the Australian ambassador and reamed him/her up one side and down the other..."

Scott, for the public record, according to an Aussie journo report snip-posted on EM, this bizarre 007-esque situation was pretty much created by arrogant Aussie politicians misbehaving like poncey snobs and not from any commerical mismanagement within the CSL company:

EffectMeasure -- Indonesian virus sharing and "God's Plan" (March 2, 2008) by revere


Excerpt: It turns out, however, there was more to it than [independent commercial interests]:

JEFF WATERS [Australian Broadcasting]: One such prototype vaccine was developed last year from an Indonesian virus sample, by Australia's CSL company.
The project was funded by the former government and the vaccine was designed to be used to immunise emergency workers if a pandemic broke out.

But it was a statement by the former health minister Tony Abbott, that that vaccine would only be made available to Australians, which apparently prompted Indonesia to stop its sharing virus samples with the rest of the world.

Now in opposition Mr Abbott defends the decision not to share the vaccine.

TONY ABBOTT: We thought that this prototype vaccine, of which a comparatively small amount was being produced by CSL, should be kept fundamentally for Australians.

We thought that it was important to vaccinate Australians before we then went to the rest of the world.

April 12, 2008 | Unregistered CommenterJonathon Singleton

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