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Swine flu 'hit credibility' of WHO

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Public confidence in the World Health Organisation has ebbed away because the dangers of the swine flu pandemic were overstated, a draft report to the Council of Europe seen by The Guardian has found.

Labour MP Paul Flynn, the report’s author and vice chair of the council’s health committee, said the WHO had “gambled away” its credibility and would not be taken as seriously in the event of another scare.

“This decline in confidence could be risky in the future,” the report claims. “When the next pandemic arises many persons may not give full credibility to recommendations put forward by WHO and other bodies. They may refuse to be vaccinated and may put their own health and lives at risk.”

The report also accuses the WHO of a lack of transparency. Some members of its advisory groups are flu experts who have also received funding from pharmaceutical companies that make drugs and vaccines against flu. 

“The neutrality of their advice could be contested. To date, WHO has failed to provide convincing evidence to counter these allegations and the organisation has not published the relevant declarations of interest.”

The Council of Europe’s parliamentary assembly commissioned the study as part of its inquiry into the handling of the swine flu pandemic by European agencies and governments. The second session of the hearings is scheduled for Tuesday.

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