The World Must Challenge China’s Attack on Public Health Transparency

In Global Advocacy, Global Featured, Vaccinate Our World by Fiona Ip

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) expressed alarm and disappointment today over China’s reported move to delete language supporting rapid World Health Organization (WHO) access to outbreak sites in future pandemics from a key document related to the negotiations of a new pandemics treaty. This development was first reported by the Health Policy Watch and attributed to a diplomatic source.

“From the outset, the pandemic got a head start of many months because there was a lack of transparency, accountability, and cooperation – precisely the things we desperately need in a new Global Public Health Convention,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “The treaty negotiations are not even fully underway yet, but China is already moving to undermine the fundamental tenets of public health to the detriment of the entire world. Entering the third year of the pandemic, we are all still paying the price for those delays while the origins of SARS-CoV-2 remain an unanswered question. If the community of nations is serious about addressing the danger of future pandemics, Member States must not allow China or any other nation to unilaterally block provisions that would allow scientists to quickly access and respond to new outbreaks on the ground.”

The document in question is an interim report by the Member States Working Group on Strengthening WHO Preparedness and Response to Health Emergencies (WGPR). It summarizes a series of proposals and recommendations for the prospective treaty as the World Health Assembly prepares to formulate the first draft of the instrument and begin the negotiations.

AHF has called for transparency throughout the pandemic, particularly from China, which has prohibited investigators from accessing personnel, facilities, and early case data that could help determine the origins of SARS-CoV-2.

As countries start to stake out their positions on the treaty, there is an ever-present danger that the imperatives of global public health might once again succumb to political interests, ultimately leaving the world exposed to pandemics. The Member States would do well to remember the 5.5 million people who lost their lives to COVID-19 because the world was unprepared and slow to respond.

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