AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) recently expressed support for a call by the White House urging China to release patient level data on the earliest cases of COVID-19 in Wuhan. The data is indispensable to understanding how the pandemic began, but the Chinese authorities have so far refused to provide it to the World Health Organization (WHO) investigators studying the origins of the outbreak.
The statement was issued Feb. 13 by the White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan, in which he referred to the recently concluded investigative trip to Wuhan by a WHO team, saying the Administration has deep concerns about how the early findings were communicated. “It is imperative that this report be independent, with expert findings free from intervention or alteration by the Chinese government,” Sullivan wrote.
“We are at a historic moment with far reaching consequences for the future of public health, and yet just when we need as much data as we can get to understand how to get the current pandemic under control and prepare for the next, everything is crippled by a lack of transparency and accountability,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “We don’t know what we don’t know – it is premature for the WHO to issue a report on the origins of COVID-19, if they haven’t seen detailed data on the earliest patients in Wuhan. A report with a gap of such magnitude is a disservice to scientific credibility and public trust.”
WHO investigators say they were only given a summary report on the early cases in Wuhan, even though they had requested raw patient data, according to Reuters. Detailed data would likely contain important insights into patient pathology, including a full battery of diagnostic tests, records of vital signs, symptoms, time and location of admission into medical facilities, possible contacts, and many other details that could shed light on where, when and how the pandemic began. Most certainly the Chinese authorities have this information, but why they have refused to provide it to the WHO remains unclear. WHO said a summary of the team’s findings would be issued as soon as this week.
“After strong criticism of WHO’s performance to date on COVID-19—including by the Independent Panel for Pandemic Preparedness and Response headed by the Honorable Helen Clark and Her Excellency Ellen Johnson Sirleaf—if WHO wants to clear its name, now is the time to insist on accountability and transparency from China,” added Weinstein. “If vital public health information is allowed to be intentionally kept in the dark, the world will be destined to repeat these tragic events over and over again.”