World Still in the Dark on COVID-19’s Origins

In Global Advocacy, Global Featured, News by Brian Shepherd

Validating concerns AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) first raised in early 2021 about the work of EcoHealth Alliance and its president Dr. Peter Daszak on dangerous virus research in China, AHF fully supports the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services decision to suspend and debar the organization from receiving federal funding for failure to fully comply with transparency requirements.

AHF issued a press release on Feb. 9, 2021, raising concerns about conflicts of interest among a World Health Organization (WHO) team of scientists dispatched to Wuhan, China, to study the origins of COVID-19.

In part, the release stated: “The alleged conflict of interest stems from the connection one of the investigators, a British zoologist and EcoHealth Alliance President Dr. Peter Daszak, has with the Wuhan Institute of Virology (WIV). According to The Wall Street Journal, Dr. Daszak has worked closely with a leading virologist at WIV, Dr. Shi Zhengli, on the study of bat viruses, which from 2014, was in part funded by U.S. government grants. The institute is located just a few miles away from the wet market where Chinese authorities say SARS-CoV-2 first emerged.”

Dr. Daszak has repeatedly and unequivocally dismissed the hypothesis that COVID-19 may have spread as a result of a lab accident in Wuhan. In 2020, he co-authored a Lancet article that characterized hypotheses that diverged from the idea that COVID-19 originated in wildlife as misinformation and conspiracy theories. This dismissive position has been since repudiated by a number of scientists, and in 2022, the WHO released a report advocating for more research into the lab leak theory.

In March 2023, AHF issued a press release under the headline “No NIH Money to EcoHealth Alliance, says AHF” in response to the announcement that the National Institutes of Health (NIH) was planning to resume funding Dr. Daszak’s work. The grant was suspended in 2022 because, according to the NIH, “EcoHealth Alliance had not been able to hand over lab notebooks and other records from its Wuhan partner that relate to controversial experiments involving modified bat viruses, despite multiple requests.”

“We have consistently called attention to the lack of transparency and attempts to dismiss outright the hypothesis that COVID-19 originated as a result of research at the Wuhan lab,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “The question has been politicized beyond measure on all sides, but our position and intention for raising it has always been and remains that we need to find out the truth for the sake of global public health. To do that, all evidence must be examined fully, transparently, and with an open mind. Whatever the origin of COVID-19, China and EcoHealth have not made answering this important question any easier. Until we know, we are flying blind.”

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