WHO to debate report on pandemic

Gary Finnegan

Gary Finnegan

March 28th, 2011

Gary Finnegan

‘The World Health Organisation (WHO) is today (28 March) debating the report of an expert panel which criticised the agency’s response to the H1N1 flu pandemic. ’

PandemicThe group, appointed by the WHO, said the handling of the pandemic was flawed but found no evidence of drug industry influence on the oranisation’s decision-making.

Authorities have been under fire for their response to the 2009 outbreak which led the WHO to declare the first global flu pandemic in more than four decades.

In response, the WHO commissioned a panel headed by US flu expert Dr Harvey Fineberg to scrutinise how it dealt with the crisis.

According to a ‘preview’ version of its report released online ahead of today’s meeting, the WHO failed to manage conflicts of interest among some of the members of its Emergency Committee which advised on the pandemic response.

The report says that the agency “performed well” in many ways, although the panel is critical of bureaucratic procedures which slowed the delivery of vaccines to poor countries and hampered efficient communication.

On the crucial question of conflicts of interest, the expert group said it found “no evidence of malfeasance”, rejecting allegations of impropriety on behalf of the WHO.

“As far as the Review Committee can determine, no critic of WHO has produced any direct evidence of commercial influence on decision-making,” the draft report states.

The Organisation is expected to consider the recommendations of the panel, including its call for a three-phase scale for judging a pandemic’s severity.

Despite the lessons learned from the H1N1 experience, the experts said the world remains “ill-prepared to respond to a severe influenza pandemic or to any similarly global, sustained and threatening public health emergency”.

Reuters:  No proof of drug industry sway on WHO: report

Nature: Mixed review for WHO’s handling of flu pandemic

New York Times: Response of WHO to Swine Flu is Criticized

AFP: WHO-appointed experts slam handling of swine flu