03/25/2009, 00.00
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Jakarta not vaccinating children to boycott foreign drug companies

Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari charges foreign companies are using Indonesia as a “testing place for drugs.” She demands “scientific proof’” that that shots for illnesses like pneumonia, chicken pox, the flu, rubella and typhoid are “beneficial.”

Jakarta (AsiaNews/Agencies) – Indonesia's health minister wants to end vaccinating children against meningitis, mumps and some other diseases because she fears drug companies are using the country as a testing ground.

“We don't want our country to be a testing place for drugs, as has been the case in Africa,” Health Minister Siti Fadillah Supari said.

Her statement comes at a time when Indonesia is struggling to contain outbreaks of preventable childhood illnesses.

Chronic underfunding and chaotic decentralisation efforts since the 1998 ousting of long-time dictator Suharto have forced many local clinics in the poorest parts of the nation to scale back operations, reducing the time and money spent on education and routine immunisations.

The number of cases of measles, tuberculosis and other diseases has skyrocketed. Polio briefly re-emerged after a decade-long absence in 2005.

Siti Fadillah Supari is not new to such steps. She first drew widespread attention by boycotting the World Health Organisation's 50-year-old virus sharing system in 2007

Today she wants “scientific proof” that shots for illnesses like pneumonia, chicken pox, the flu, rubella and typhoid were “beneficial.”

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