WHO Lashes Out As Council Of Europe Preps Hearing On Flu Pandemic 25/01/2010 by Kaitlin Mara for Intellectual Property Watch 7 Comments Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)The World Health Organization today defended its declaration of a global influenza pandemic, and saying any allegations that it is fake are “wrong and irresponsible.” The statement comes as the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) prepares for a public hearing tomorrow morning in Strasbourg to examine the allegations, involving representatives of the WHO and European vaccine manufacturers will be in attendance, as will independent medical experts. WHO in June declared the H1N1 influenza strain (so-called swine flu) a “pandemic,” which automatically set into motion a series of actions such as contracts with pharmaceutical producers for vaccine production. A motion before PACE [pdf] raises the concern that pharmaceutical companies had influenced official agencies “to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu” and said the “definition of an alarming pandemic must not be under the influence of drug-sellers.” WHO said that its advisers provide “a signed declaration of interests to WHO detailing any professional or financial interest that could affect the impartiality of their advice.” The statement then provides some of the WHO’s reasons for declaring the pandemic, specifically that it was a novel virus and that it was widespread geographically. The statement also said that data from Mexico “indicated this virus also could cause severe disease and death” and that there was a related form of viral pneumonia that was not normally seen during flu season. The seemingly low level of mortality – or even particularly serious illness – seen during this outbreak has been cited by those concerned that the pandemic threat was exaggerated. In particular, sources told Intellectual Property Watch there had been a change in the WHO guidelines on influenza preparedness to remove references to morbidity and mortality between the 2005 version and the latest version in 2009. But, “morbidity and mortality were never part of the definition” of pandemic, said Gregory Hartl, a spokesman for the WHO on H1N1 Global Alert and Response. Pandemic has only two criteria: global spread and novelty of the flu virus (meaning people do not yet have immunity to it). In popular thinking, pandemics are associated with death, but mortality and morbidity rates cannot be assessed until years after the end of a pandemic, he told Intellectual Property Watch. What did change between the 2005 and 2009 versions, said Hartl, was a footnote that indicated disease severity might be a criterion in pre-pandemic assessments of worrisome diseases. There was also a WHO website, he added, saying that pandemics could cause “enormous numbers of deaths or illnesses,” but this was only one possible scenario and was a website discussion not an official WHO document. WHO was “not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry,” and “the world is going through a real pandemic,” its statement concludes. The Council of Europe is a 47-member Strasbourg-based body established in 1949, separate but including members of the smaller European Union. It works to develop and promote principles of human rights and democratic rule of law. The PACE public hearing will take place from 8:15-10am and will be live webcast here [Update. The link previously placed here does not work. The webcast can be accessed here, by clicking on “public hearing.”]. The programme of the hearing is available here [pdf]. An urgent debate over the WHO’s conduct and the necessity of launching an investigation had been proposed but the assembly decided today not to hold one by a vote of 96 to 82, a member of the Council of Europe’s communications department told Intellectual Property Watch. The reasoning for delay is that Thursday morning – when the debate would have been scheduled – was not adequate time to prepare a text studying the question. There will be a decision taken Friday on what to do with the motion from several parliamentarians that raised the concerns, and called for there be an “immediate investigation” into the WHO’s handling of swine flu. Share this:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window) Related Kaitlin Mara may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org."WHO Lashes Out As Council Of Europe Preps Hearing On Flu Pandemic" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.