World Health Organization’s chief, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, spoke out against misinformation on social media claiming that a new “global pandemic accord” is being negotiated to allow the organization to override national sovereignty relating to a future outbreak.
In the weekly press conference held recently in Geneva, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the correspondents that “the claim that the accord will cede power to WHO is quite simply false.” “It’s fake news,” he said.
The head of the World Health Organization assured that countries themselves would decide the wording and scope of any global agreement on ways to tackle the next pandemic. “And countries alone,” he asserted.
“No country will cede any sovereignty to WHO,” Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus confirmed.
His statement came following news reports highlighting several instances of online sources and commentators in recent weeks falsely claiming Biden’s administration was negotiating a deal to allow the World Health Organization to “control” emergency laws in the upcoming pandemics similar to COVID-19.
The Ongoing Intergovernmental Negotiations
No credible sources are confirming a similar agreement was being negotiated. However, member states of the WHO began negotiations on a draft global accord on pandemic prevention, preparedness, and response, earlier this month.
According to the organization’s official website, the work started on an agreed “zero draft” designed to protect countries and communities from future pandemic emergencies.
The website mentioned that the Intergovernmental Negotiating Body (INB), drafting and negotiating the agreement, will meet again next month to produce a first draft.
The INB Co-Chair, Ms. Precious Matsoso from South Africa, said that the meeting was a critical step to ensure the avoidance of the mistakes that occurred during the COVID-19 response, including “sharing life-saving vaccines, provision of information, and development of local capacities.”
Meanwhile, the WHO chief said they would be “more than happy” to discuss and explain the accord in case anyone is confused about it.
The Outbreak of Marburg Virus Disease
Earlier last month, Equatorial Guinea announced the outbreak of the Marburg virus disease. There have been at least nine laboratory confirmed cases, seven of which resulted in death, bringing the total to nine confirmed and 20 probable cases. According to Reuters, twenty deaths have been reported by the World Health Organization since the outbreak of this deadly disease.
According to WHO’s official website, Marburg belongs to the same family of viruses as Ebola. “It causes similar symptoms, transmitting between humans in the same way with a high rate of fatalities.”
High fever, often followed by bleeding and organ failure, is a common symptom of the deadly Ebola-like virus.
“WHO has deployed experts to Equatorial Guinea to support the Government’s response and to strengthen community engagement,” the head of the World Health Organization said.
“While there are no approved vaccines or therapeutics for Marburg, WHO is leading an effort to evaluate candidate vaccines and therapeutics in the context of the outbreak,” Tedros concluded.
The Marburg Virus Spreads in Tanzania
The virus struck Tanzania and killed at least five people in the country’s north-western Kagera region, the health ministry reported.
“Tanzania was able to confirm the outbreak because the first samples were tested at a mobile lab that was set up as a result of work supported by WHO last year to prepare for outbreaks of viral hemorrhagic fever, including Ebola and Marburg,” the WHO chief said.
Tanzania's Health Minister Ummy Mwalimu said that the disease had been contained. However, she was confident it would not spread further.
Three people were being treated in the hospital, and authorities were tracing 161 contacts, Ms. Mwalimu added.
“The efforts by Tanzania's health authorities to establish the cause of the disease is a clear indication of the determination to effectively respond to the outbreak,” WHO's regional director for Africa, Dr. Matshidiso Moeti.
Meanwhile, national responders trained jointly by the organization and the U.S. Center for Disease Control have been deployed to the affected region to run investigations and provide care.
As the Marburg virus disease spreads in these countries, we may expect a new wave of misinformation similar to the COVID-19 misinformation if the virus affects additional countries. However, learning from the mistakes and lapses that occurred while dealing with the COVID-19 misinformation may lead to better handling or even the outflank of this potential misinformation.