Today the World Health Organization conceded serious shortcomings in the agencies handling of the H1N1 swine flu pandemic. The most worrying problem included a failure to communicate uncertainties about the new virus as it spread around the world. Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s top influenza expert, said “The reality is there is a huge amount of uncertainty (in a pandemic). I think we did not convey the uncertainty. That was interpreted by many as a non-transparent process.” Fukuda targeted the U.N. agency’s six-phase system for declaring a pandemic had sown confusion about the flu bug which was ultimately not as deadly as the widely-feared avian influenza.
Margaret Chan, WHO Director-General, called for a honest and critical review of its handling of the swine flu pandemic. “We want a frank, critical, transparent, credible and independent review of our performance,” Chan told the crowd of experts that had come together for a three-day meeting in Geneva to review WHO’s handling of the first influenza pandemic in 40 years.
A vocal minority of scientists and government officials around the world have accused WHO of overplaying the danger of the virus, while others have claimed its decision to declare a pandemic was unduly influenced by commercial interests. Critics have said the WHO created panic about the swine flu virus, which turned out to be moderate in its effect, and caused governments to stockpile vaccines which went unused. Questions have been voiced regarding the WHO’s links to the pharmaceutical industry after companies like GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi-Aventis made massive profits from producing H1N1 vaccine.
This AlJazeeraEnglish broadcast was released January 11, 2010 and goes into greater detail the costs to the countries in over buying vaccine and the push to mitigate the financial damage of overstock.