AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF), the world’s largest HIV/AIDS care provider operating in 45 countries, welcomes the announcement that a new team of international experts is being assembled to restart the inquiry into the origins of COVID-19. However, to ensure a fair consideration of all plausible origin hypotheses, AHF says the team should involve independent scientists, including some of the 16 scientists who have recently expressed concerns over the lab leak hypothesis being dismissed too hastily.
The first international investigation into the origins of COVID-19, which was co-organized by the World Health Organization and China, has been widely criticized for a range of issues, including conflicts of interest, interference from Chinese authorities, and a lack of early clinical data to backup its conclusions. Now WHO is gearing up for a re-do, and the hypothesis that the virus could have escaped from a Wuhan lab is back on the table, even though it had been previously dismissed by the first investigative team as a virtual impossibility.
In mid-September, a group of 16 scientists wrote an open letter to The Lancet medical journal saying previously published research by some of the scientists involved in the original investigation presented “no scientifically validated evidence that directly supports a natural origin” of SARS-CoV-2 (the virus that causes COVID-19). As such, they argue “a laboratory-related accident is plausible,” and that all rational hypotheses should be considered in search for the origin of the virus.
“There is no room in science for making politically-motivated choices about which hypotheses to examine and which to ignore because they might be inconvenient or embarrassing. This is especially true when we are dealing with a pandemic, because at stake is a profound question, can we understand the current pandemic well enough to prevent the next one and to save millions of lives?” said Dr. Jorge Saavedra, Executive Director of the AHF Global Public Health Institute at the University of Miami. “For this reason, we applaud the renewed effort to identify the origins of SARS-CoV-2, but we also want the second investigation to avoid the pitfalls which tainted the first one – it must be independent, transparent, unbiased and open to all hypotheses.”