Think back to the height of the H1N1 epidemic last year. We were a little scared.
People wanted vaccinations and couldn’t get them. Children and pregnant women were said to be the most vulnerable. Emergency rooms were clogged, and hospitals set up tents in parking lots to handle the overflow of patients. And there were deaths. Somewhere between 8,870 and 18,300 deaths, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
So the threat was real. But imagine how you’d feel if you found out that the extent and strength of the pandemic was exaggerated – by people who stood to make money from the sale of the vaccinations.
That’s exactly what a The British Medical Journal is alleging in its current issue. In a joint investigation with the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, their report says that the top scientists who convinced the World Health Organization – the WHO – to declare H1N1 a global pandemic had financial ties to the companies who sold the vaccines. And that the more the pandemic was emphasized and exaggerated, the more they stood to gain.
From the British Medical Journal:
“A joint investigation by the BMJ and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism has uncovered evidence that raises troubling questions about how WHO managed conflicts of interest among the scientists who advised its pandemic planning, and about the transparency of the science underlying its advice to governments. Was it appropriate for WHO to take advice from experts who had declarable financial and research ties with pharmaceutical companies producing antivirals and influenza vaccines? Why was key WHO guidance authored by an influenza expert who had received payment for other work from Roche, manufacturers of oseltamivir, and GlaxoSmithKline, manufacturers of zanamivir? And why does the composition of the emergency committee from which [Margaret] Chan [director general of WHO] sought guidance remain a secret known only to those within WHO? We are left wondering whether major public health organizations are able to effectively manage the conflicts of interest that are inherent in medical science.