Parliamentary Assembly questions handling of H1N1 pandemic

Strasbourg, 26 January 2010


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In the last century, the world has suffered a series of health scares: SARS, avian flu and currently swine flu. The Assembly's Committee on Social, Health and Family Affairs looked into the handling of the H1N1 pandemic during a public hearing in January 2010, questioning if decisions on pandemics were taken on the best scientific evidence only, or were influenced by other interests. The World Health Organisation representative responded that swine flu policies were not improperly influenced by the pharmaceutical industry and that WHO is confident of the scientific validity of its recommendations.

The Committee held a second public hearing in Paris, with the participation of government officials who dealt with the pandemic. Rapporteur Paul Flynn visited the WHO’s headquarters in Geneva, and produced a report for the plenary debate in June 2010.

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Video of the hearing Video of the press conference

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  • Paul Flynn, appointed to prepare an Assembly report for debate in June 2010:

"With H1N1, did the WHO, once again, frighten the world without any substantial evidence?"

  • Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, medical expert specialising in epidemiology and former Chair of the Assembly Sub-committee on Health:

"We were told this was a ‘flu which would threaten humanity, and millions would fall ill. This is why millions of dollars of medications were bought. The WHO basically held the trigger for the pandemic preparedness plans, they had a key role to play in deciding on the pandemic. Around 18 billion dollars was spent on this pandemic worldwide."

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  • Dr Keiji Fukuda, Special Advisor on Pandemic Influenza to the Director-General (WHO):

"WHO is confident of the scientific validity of its recommendations. The labelling of the pandemic as "fake" is to ignore recent history and science and to trivialize the deaths of over 14,000 people and the many additional serious illnesses experienced by others."

  • Dr Luc Hessel, European Vaccine Manufacturers:

"The EVM rejects this motion, particularly the accusation of inappropriate response of vaccine manufacturers in their response to H1N1. The vaccine industry did what it was asked to do. The industry’s role is to produce safe vaccines in a timely manner and respond to government’srequests."

  • Dr Ulrich Keil, Director of the WHO Collaborating Centre for Epidemiology at the University of Münster:

"We are witnesssing a gigantic misallocation of resources in terms of public health. Governments and public health services are wasting huge amounts of money in investing in pandemic diseases whose evidence base is weak."