Chairman’s Press Statement of the ASEAN+3 Health Ministers’ Special Meeting on Influenza A (H1N1)

Bangkok, Thailand  8 May 2009

1. The ASEAN + 3 Health Ministers Special Meeting on Influenza A (H1N1) was held on 8 May 2009 in Bangkok, Thailand. The Special Meeting was chaired by H.E. Dr. Francisco T. Duque III, the Secretary of Health, Department of Health of the Philippines and the Chair of the ASEAN Health Ministers.

2. The Meeting was the outcome of the initiative of Samdech Decho HUN SEN, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Cambodia to which H.E. Mr. Abbhisit Vejjajiva, the Prime Minister of the Kingdom of Thailand graciously agreed to host.

3. Prime Minister Abbhisit delivered his Opening Address at the Opening Ceremony this morning. The Director-General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan delivered a recorded address by video. The Minister of Public Health of Thailand and the ASEAN Secretary-General also delivered their respective remarks.

4. The Meeting represents the shared recognition for collective action in addressing the threat of Influenza A (H1N1). It was further recognized that united and harmonized actions would ensure that the health care systems in the region is fully prepared to contain any potential disease outbreaks.

5. In a Live Video Conference during the morning session, Dr. Richard Besser, Acting Director, Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), provided an update on effective responses in the US against Influenza A (H1N1).

6. Updates on the disease in the region were provided by Dr. Shin Young- soo, the Regional Director of the WHO Regional Office for the Western Pacific.

7. Before the Ministers convened the Meeting today, the Senior Officials had on 7 May deliberated extensively on the issue. In live video conference discussions with experts from the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the WHO and the World Bank, it was noted that although the outbreak has been mild so far, the situation continues to evolve, thus constant monitoring needs to be done. It was emphasised that the 1918 pandemic started with mild outbreaks in springtime but became severe during winter, thus there is a need for the region to review and strengthen their pandemic preparedness plans and to maintain its guard.

8. Based on the discussions yesterday, the countries in the region are carrying out activities related to strengthening preparedness and response, with focus on the following areas:

  1. Planning and coordination;
  2. Situation monitoring and assessment;
  3. Reducing spread of disease;
  4. Health care intervention; and
  5. Public Awareness / Risk Communication

9. The Senior Officials also worked on the draft Joint Ministerial Statement which has just now been adopted by the Ministers.

10. The Ministers in their Joint Ministerial Statement have hereby agreed to, among others, the following measures:

  • To continuously implement their respective national pandemic preparedness plan;
  • To strengthen surveillance and effective responses;
  • Ensure effective communication especially within the public realm to avoid panic and social disruption;
  • To consider implementing exit screening as one of the cross border disease control strategies;
  • To consider establishing a system within the ASEAN Plus Three countries to facilitate sharing of essential supplies in an emergency

11. The Ministers also encouraged the transfer of technology in relation to the production of antiviral medicines and vaccines.

12. Regional cooperation measures such as establishing hotlines among national health authorities, joint investigation and response teams, and strengthening research were also stressed by the Ministers in their Joint Statement.

13. Collaboration with international and regional health bodies was also emphasized. In this regard, the Meeting recognized with appreciation the valuable assistance and support provided by partners such as the World Health Organisation, the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Bank. The assistance of ASEAN’s partners such as AusAID and USAID was also similarly recognized.

14. The WHO, in particular, has been called upon to continue providing timely and accurate information and guidance on responses. The WHO was also asked to ensure that all WHO Member States have fair and equitable access to pandemic vaccines and to facilitate the increase in influenza vaccine manufacturing capacities in the region.

15. Logistical exercises in ASEAN has also been proposed by the Ministers in order to ensure effective and timely deployment of stockpiles of medicines, medical supplies in the event of a future pandemic