European Parliament Censures World Health Organisation Over the Swine Flu Fiasco but Continues to Swallow False Figures on Seasonal Flu
By John Stone
The Environment Committee of the European Parliament has questioned the influence pharmaceutical industry in the light of the swine flu fiasco. A press release from the parliament reports:
“Michèle Rivasi (Greens/EFA, FR), who drafted the report and resolution for the Environment Committee, commented "This report is an important attempt to highlight the concerns that have been raised about the disproportionate response to swine flu in Europe, as well as the potential influence of pharmaceutical companies in response processes."”
And goes on to state:
“Assessments of and communication about flu outbreaks must be more independent, says the resolution. Safeguards are needed to prevent conflicts of interest. For example, declarations of interest by experts who advise European health authorities should be published. And under EU legislation, full liability for vaccines must lie with the manufacturer, not with Member States.”
The committee is to ask the World Health Organisation:
“to review its definition of a "pandemic", to take into account the severity of the illness, not only the spread of a virus. To buttress the EU's own risk assessment capacity, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control should be equipped to assess risks independently as well as perform its other tasks, say MEPs.”
While the new spirit of political scepticism in relation to WHO and health officials is to be welcomed the committee continues to fall into the trap of believing in false estimates of seasonal flu deaths. The press release states:
“H1N1 had caused 2,900 deaths in Europe by April 2010, which compares with 40,000 for seasonal flu in a moderate year.”
However, a post on BMJ late Christmas Eve 2009 by the UK’s Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson revealed that there had only been 131 deaths from flu in the UK over the previous 4 years – in fact there have been more deaths from H1N1, although still not a statistically high risk. The UK Health Protection Agency have made spurious claims about flu deaths calculated on the basis of above average excess winter mortality (i.e. in years – presumably about half – in which excess winter mortality is above average the additional deaths are attributed to flu) (HERE ). The truth is that the 40,000 annual deaths from flu in the EU is probably an over-estimate of approximately 100 times. Of course, leading British officials who advised the WHO over swine flu and sit on its Strategic Advisory Group of Experts (SAGE) include the Department of Health’s own Prof David Salisbury (HERE) and Prof Elizabeth Miller from the HPA (HERE ). It will not be a surprise that British Government officials advise the WHO and the WHO advise the British Government officials. It will also not be a surprise that an “independent report” commissioned by the WHO into its handling of the swine flu episode is now reported by Reuters to have exonerated it over industry influence (HERE). A report in the Daily Mail in January 2010 mentioned that 11 of the 20 member SAGE group were affiliated to the industry. It is not clear whether this included Prof Miller whose laboratory has traditionally been heavily funded by vaccine makers (HERE ).
John Stone is UK Editor for Age of Autism.