Global’s H1N1 Update – 06/15/10

The next update will be on Thursday, June 17th, at 0830 hrs PST.

The WHO Pandemic Alert level remains at Phase 6

Influenza A (H1N1) Cases and Deaths*

*Cases reported by The World Health Organization (WHO) are as of June 6, 2010

International News

The WHO, CIDRAP and others continue to respond to BMJ allegations

Defenders of the World Health Organization’s pandemic recommendations continue to surface in the face of criticism from the British Medical Journal, now the BMJ. Earlier this month the BMJ suggested the UN body had come under the influence of drug industry corruption and that the H1N1 guidelines provided by three of its flu experts were suspect.  David Ozonoff, an epidemiologist at the Boston University School of Public Health, called the report a “smear” that insinuates the serious charge that they would have given different advice if they hadn’t had relationships with drug companies.  The BMJ authors Deborah Cohen and Philip Carter responded, “We think this is the researcher’s reading into it, not necessarily ours.”

Dr. Michael Osterholm, director of the University of Minnesota’s Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, called the article “irresponsible and reckless” saying, “There was nothing in those guidelines that was not based on the best science available.  To suggest that the three scientists were able to direct and control the final recommendations [of the 22-member panel] is naive, and stated without a single shred of evidence.”

Epidemiologist Marc Lipsitch at the Harvard School of Public Health compared the situation with the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico: “It is ironic, as we watch […] the catastrophic results of ‘best-case scenario planning’ […], to have the WHO coming under criticism for planning for, and raising awareness of, the possibility of a severe pandemic. […] They should be commended for it.”

Director General of the WHO Margaret Chan sent an open letter to the BMJ in response to the article. In it, she allowed that transparency and stricter rules of engagement with industry were issues the agency was working to improve on, but “at no time, not for one second, did commercial interests enter my decision-making.”

According to the Journal article, “pharmaceutical companies, […] put pressure on WHO to declare a pandemic. It was the declaring of the pandemic that triggered the [vaccine purchasing] contracts.”  However, many countries including the United Kingdom, France, Finland, Canada, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and the United States had already activated their contracts and placed large orders for H1N1 vaccine weeks before the WHO declared the pandemic on June 11, 2009.  Therefore, the Emergency Committee could not have influenced these in any way.  “You are absolutely right,” conceded the authors of the BMJ article when challenged with this timeline.  Nature News

Pandemic, one year later

The H1N1 pandemic is officially a year old as of last Friday.  On June 11, 2009, the World Health Organization’s Director General declared the H1N1 outbreak was a phase-six pandemic.  The avian (H5N1) flu virus had led the public to associate the term “pandemic” with high death rates, so the WHO hesitated making the declaration over concerns it would cause undue alarm.  The announcement came about seven weeks after the virus surfaced.  A year later, labs officially confirm H1N1 has claimed 18,156 lives though the actual count, which won’t be known for years, is expected to be many times higher.  While H1N1 activity has tapered off in most parts of the world, the WHO maintains a phase six alert.  World Health Organization

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: