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Indonesia, Baxter Sign Deal on Bird Flu Vaccine

The Indonesian government signed a memorandum of understanding with a Swiss unit of U.S. company Baxter International on Wednesday to develop a human bird flu vaccine.

The deal has stirred controversy because it has been linked to an Indonesian decision not to share samples of its H5N1 bird flu virus with foreign laboratories.

Indonesia has the highest fatalities of any country in the world from the disease, accounting for 63 deaths out of the global total of 166 over the past four years. Bird flu largely remains an animal disease, but can kill people who have close contact with infected fowl.

A health ministry spokeswoman said on Tuesday the vaccine was to prevent poultry-to-human infection, which was needed for the current situation but not for a future pandemic that might involve human-to-human transmission.