NEW CANAAN, CT — A global flu outbreak—flu pandemic—strikes three or four times in a century, with a new strain of flu met by weak immune resistance around the globe. The pandemic flu of 1918 killed 40 million people; at least two lesser pandemics occurred in the last half of the 20th century. Health experts, like those who will meet at Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory this October 24-26, suspect that a new pandemic is likely to occur in a not-too-distant flu season. They want to have a vaccine policy in place for quick response, to avoid the potentially overwhelming death toll that such a pandemic threat could pose.

“Pandemic Disease Threats: Can We Develop a Global Vaccine Policy?” is a colloquium of select experts convened by the Sabin Vaccine Institute. It is the 11th annual vaccine policy colloquium in an ongoing series sponsored by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation to bring leading experts from diverse fields together. “The opportunity provided by the colloquium for participants from around the globe to address key vaccine policy questions is exceedingly valuable,” says organizer Dean Mason, president of the Sabin Vaccine Institute. “We anticipate this group will explore and frame a global vaccine policy in response to the potential for pandemic diseases, primarily influenza and variants, including avian influenza and SARS.”

The 35 meeting participants will represent the World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and international organizations from Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, China, Canada, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands. Representatives from flu vaccine manufacturers will also be represented.

Editor’s Note: The policy of the conference center precludes participation or observation by media during the closed meeting. To arrange an interview with Dean Mason or another participant, please contact Raymond MacDougall at 301-793-4949.