Should Margaret Chan resign?

>Washington, DC.- It has been a year since the world woke up to a global pandemic swine flu alarm, declared by the World Health Organization (WHO). It was in June 2009 when the director general, Ms. Margaret Chan, alerted the world about the flu, which was so dangerous — it justified the declaration of a Level 6, the highest in the pandemic influenza phases. That decision forced governments all over the world to act; many countries started to buy millions of doses of vaccine to be ready for a potential threat against its populations. But after one year, what was supposed to be a massive infection killing millions, resulted in a flu less-dangerous than the ordinary seasonal one.

The decision announced by Ms. Chan created a massive panic which affected government decisions, economical expenses, and global fear foster by unjustified news coverage. Many countries cumulated millions of vaccines waiting for the worst scenario, which never arrived. France spent €600 million on 90 million doses, but only used 10 percent—and this is only one example.

After one year of the WHO outcry, the only thing that is clear is that the biggest beneficiaries of the process have been the pharmaceutical industry. A very interesting BBC investigation revealed that some companies like Novartis received threats from public offices asking for more vaccines. These threats were justified by the pressure of the public opinion and the press, and also because of the WHO announcement.

Twelve months later, it is not still clear why the WHO decided to raise the level of danger, nor the documents or technical figures used to support the decision. Usually, the WHO technical and political conversations are not disclosed. However, since a decision of that magnitude has huge economic and social impact, the process should be more transparent and credible. Until now, what we really know is the hundreds of millions of people who were vaccinated following public-health-policies guidelines and that governments all over the world spent millions of dollars buying doses following WHO guidelines.

The face of that decision was Ms. Margaret Chan. She seemed to be secure enough in that moment to announce the pandemic; a decision that she knew it would create criticism because of the social, economical, and political consequences. She was sure one year ago, but now what we know is that although the flu was severe, it was not as mortal as it was announced. Ms. Chan decision had consequences, and among those, hundreds of millions of tax dollars went to private companies, a movement that has only one precedent in history, military spending in war times. Somebody should answer the unsolved questions, and if the explanations are not good enough, Ms. Chan should think if she is the right person to lead the WHO.

Foto: LIONEL BONAVENTURE/AFP/Getty Images

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8 comentarios en “Should Margaret Chan resign?

  1. >Dear Gus, you got it totally wrong. The reasons behind declaring a pandemic have nothing to do with the severity of the illness, but with widespread (as in geographic) human infection–as decided by experts before the pandemic.Also, WHO always said that H1N1 was mild in the majority of the cases.If you want some background info on the data disclosure, I recommend you to read this article recently published by Margaret Chan: http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/statements/2010/letter_bmj_20100608/en/index.html

  2. >(y 2):La gripe "normal" es en realidad un conjunto de gripes (cepas) y no son nuevas. El motivo de que se elevara a nivel 6 no tuvo nada que ver con la gravedad de la enfermedad, sino con: 1) nueva cepa, 2) transmisión entre humanos, 3) dispersión geográfica.Esas son las condiciones que los expertos estaban de acuerdo antes de H1N1. Y no olvidemos, que aunque pocos, H1N1 mató gente, entre ellos embarazadas estaban en grupos de alto nivel de riesgo.Lo que me da la impresión que realmente pasó es que los epidemiologos habían previsto una nueva pandemia (van por ciclos) y la imaginaban en un nivel de peligro similar a la gripe aviar. Creo que dieron por hecho que si se cumplían los 3 requisitos de arriba la severidad acompañaría, y no fue el caso. Aunque esto es sólo mi opinión.Si miras las hemerotecas, la palabra "mild" aparece una y otra vez en todas las declaraciones. Nunca se anunció algo que no estuviera apoyado por los datos. Otro tema es la calidad de los datos, de eso podemos hablar en otro momento.

  3. >Successfully stopping a POTENTIAL pandemic means not to have one. Did you realize that? May be you wanted action on the very last moment. But don´t worry, it won´t be the last one, and you will complain no proper action was taken.Antonio, I was waiting for your answer.

  4. >Gus,Severity is one of the most difficult things to measure about influenza. Severity depends on individuals (as you mentioned, it was actually very severe to some people), their ability to access health care (those who cannot get treatment find themselves in more severe situations), and how healthy the population was before the attack (similar to the individual level). If you read any epidemiological articles about influenza in general, taking the time to try to determine the severity of an influenza will cost valuable time, if the strain turns out to be more severe for more people – then, what would you say? They delayed while testing and should have been acting for a vaccine or social distancing? Influenza is one of the scariest diseases out there – due to it's unpredictability and subjectivity to mutation (as you mentioned, there are many strains, all able to mutate.) I deal with planning for pandemic influenza it every day. I would hope that my job is not for nothing.The link from the WHO should help explain severity measurements, but I would also be happy to provide you with more information.Carolyn

  5. >One of the facts nobody mentions here is that we are continuously under the influence very sensationalist media..This ends up affecting the mood of people. Call it economic recession, swine flue, climate change, etcHalf of all of it is bull crapDM

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