WHO Rejects Accusations It Mishandled H1N1, Updates Worldwide Stats

WHO spokesperson Gregory Hartl on Monday rejected accusations that the organization miscategorized H1N1 (swine flu) as a pandemic, calling such accusations “irresponsible,” the Associated Press/Washington Post reports. “WHO also dismissed claims it colluded with drug companies to bring economic benefit to the industry by playing up the danger of the new H1N1 [swine flu] influenza strain,” the news service writes.

The organization is scheduled to meet Tuesday with the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, “the watchdog body [that has] questioned whether the U.N.’s health agency acted under undue influence,” according to the AP/Washington Post (1/25).

Agence France-Presse reports WHO Special Adviser on Pandemic Influenza Keiji Fukuda will attend the meeting. The article also includes comments made by Hartl on Friday, in which he defends the WHO’s response to H1N1 (1/23).

In its latest update on the toll of H1N1 around the world, the WHO on Friday said at least 14,142 people worldwide have died from H1N1 since the virus emerged, Xinhua reports (1/23). According to the WHO, North Africa, South Asia and parts of Eastern Europe continue to see the most intense transmission of the virus, Agence France-Presse/IOL reports (1/25).

In other news, the Wall Street Journal examines why the H1N1 projections initially made by the CDC appear to have been overestimates. The CDC “said last week that about 55 million Americans have been ill with H1N1 and about 11,000 have died – a far smaller toll than projected in a report last summer commissioned by the White House. That report warned of a scenario in which 60 million to 120 million people would become sick last fall and this winter and 30,000 to 90,000 people would die of swine flu,” the newspaper writes. The article examines possible explanations for the disparity in the predictions and current estimates (Bialik, 1/23).

On the vaccine front, France has run into some difficulties in its attempts to cancel millions of orders of H1N1 vaccines with drugmakers, Agence France-Presse reports. “France earlier this month moved to cancel purchases of 50 million swine flu vaccines after ordering far more than needed, but was confident at the time that it would not have to compensate the big companies that provide them,” the news service writes. “But the negotiations with the British drug firm GlaxoSmithKline, Sanofi of France and Novartis of Switzerland are ‘extraordinarily tough,’ [French Health Minister] Roselyne Bachelot, told Europe 1 radio station on Friday” (1/22).

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