Anti-vaccine activists have accused the WHO of hyping the flu pandemic to enrich Big Pharma. In response, the Special Adviser to the WHO Director-General on Pandemic Influenza, Keiji Fukuda says:
…the allegation that H1N1 is not a pandemic is scientifically wrong and historically inaccurate. He says when WHO Director-General, Margaret Chan, announced the pandemic last year, she said it would be of mild severity.
VOA News, January 14, 2009
These are both true statements. We are definitely in a pandemic and Margaret Chan said the pandemic is mild.
The problem is that although Dr. Fukuda quoted his boss correctly, her statement was false. This is not a *mild* pandemic. It kills pregnant women at a terrifying rate, especially in poor countries. It is 10 times more lethal to children than seasonal flu. And infected middle-aged adults are being killed at a rate not seen since 1918. The only thing mild about this virus is its overall impact on the elderly, which, thus far, has been very limited. And that is only because so few of them have gotten infected. Should this change, there is good evidence suggesting that they too will die at a much higher rate than with seasonal flu.
Had the WHO communicated the information about the relative rates of death from the new H1N1 virus vs. seasonal flu in pregnant women, children and middle-aged adults clearly and consistently, no-one would question why vaccinations are necessary. Instead, by underplaying the impact of this pandemic, as Director-General Chan has done, many are left wondering why such extraordinary efforts should be made to vaccinate people.
The WHO has *not* “been balanced and truthful in the information it has provided to the public”, imo. It has, instead, been at best muddled and confusing and at worst provided misinformation about the danger posed by this virus.
And it doesn’t help to have a Director-General who says she will kill the WHO if the anti-vaccine conspiracy theorists turn out to be right.