WHO director-general says report exonerates WHO

On Monday, Margaret Chan, the director general of the World Health Organization, welcomed the first results of a probe into how well the organization handled the swine flu pandemic in 2009-2010, claiming exoneration on two counts.

Chan told the review committee that she believed the assessment needed to give a firm answers on two major questions in the debate, AFP reports.

“First, did WHO make the right call?” Chan said, according to AFP. “Was this a real pandemic or not? Second, were WHO decisions, advice, and actions shaped in any way by ties with the pharmaceutical industry? In other words, did WHO declare a fake pandemic in order to line the pockets of industry? The document exonerates WHO on both counts.”

The independently produced preliminary report, released March 10, said that the organization had failed to give timely guidance during the pandemic and that its plans of flu response and alerts needed revisions. It rejected claims that the WHO was influenced by commercial interest to declare a pandemic and order vaccine supplies.

The report did, however, criticize the robustness of the procedures among WHO medical advisors to disclose conflicts of interest. The report issued a broad warning to the world about preparations for future flu pandemics.

“WHO welcomes the preview document, its conclusions and its recommendations,” Chan said, according to AFP. “We will do our utmost to implement them. But let me be very frank. Some of your recommendations will be far easier to implement than others.”

The more difficult recommendations include a lack of international harmonized medical standards. Worldwide, A(H1N1) swine flu killed at least 18,449 people in 214 countries and territories, according to AFP. A pandemic was declared on June 11, 2009, and lasted until August 10, 2010.