WHO to examine its H1N1 response
Source CBC News
The World Health Organization will review accusations it overstated the risks of the H1N1 virus.
The most recent complaints about WHO’s handling of the pandemic came from the Council of Europe, a political forum, where last week parliamentarian Wolfgang Wodarg called H1N1 a “false pandemic.” In November 2009, Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health, referred to it as a “dud pandemic.”
The European concern is that WHO may have overstated the dangers of the pandemic because of pressure from pharmaceutical companies that produce swine flu vaccines.
“Criticism is part of an outbreak cycle,” WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib told reporters in Geneva. “We expect and indeed welcome criticism and the chance to discuss it,” she said, adding the WHO’s review would involve independent outside experts and its results would be made public.
Countries want to know if WHO’s advice to stockpile millions of dollars of vaccine was valid. Many countries ordered two doses of H1N1 vaccine for their citizens before researchers determined one dose would suffice for adults.
Many countries, including Canada, now have excess vaccine supplies, and are sending doses to other countries or trying to sell it. Last week, WHO delivered donated H1N1 vaccine to Mongolia and Azerbaijan, the first of 95 developing and middle-income countries the agency plans to supply with vaccine.
WHO said it’s too soon to say when the review would occur.
It could take “several seasons” to determine when the pandemic has completely subsided, said WHO spokesperson Nyka Alexander.
If so, it could be months or years before WHO determines whether the criticism was valid, said CBC’s Genevieve Tomney.
Lab-confirmed testing shows H1N1 has reached more than 200 countries and killed at least 12,799 people, according to WHO. The agency notes the real toll could take several years to determine.