The Guardian's Zoe Williams attempts a hatchet job on my interview on the Today programme. Pity she did not give me a ring. Her knowledge of the subject is superficial
"The idea of Big Pharma duping the WHO over swine flu is thrilling. The reality is more prosaic. It emerged this week that the Department of Health over-bought swine flu jabs by 30 million doses or, to interject coarsely with mention of money, £150m. "
No it's far worse than that. The bulk buying by the UK Government was a vast 110 millions doses of vaccines. Enough to give 80% of the population two doses each. In spite of making it a duty of care for health professionals a minute 6 million doses were used. By any measure an example of over-buying especially when compared with the caution of the Poles. In France very few doctors took the vaccines for themselves. What did British Doctors do?
"While the Tories try to make mileage out of an alleged mishandling, Labour MP Paul Flynn questions the advice from the World Health Organisation that spurred the huge purchase in the first place. He points to all the recent scares that have failed to live up to their deadly billing: Sars, CJD, avian flu. Flynn is involved in a Council of Europe inquiry into the influence of drug companies on government policy, so is likely to be trenchant. Still, I was surprised by his boldness when he said, on the Today programme yesterday: "Did they make these terrifying claims because of epidemiology or did they do it under pressure from pharmaceutical companies?"
It's an enormous charge against the WHO. If it were to stand up, the consequences would be vast. The idea of a central, co-ordinated advisory body on health would probably be ended."
It's not a charge that I as rapporteur have ever made. I am still weighing the evidence. But my former colleagues on the Council of Europe epidemiologist Wolfgang Wodarg has floated the possibility that the €4billion investment by the Pharmas persuaded them to campaign for an early pandemic. They had to have a return on their investment. That's plausible. The Pharmas are immensely influential and their tentacles reach everywhere where medical decisions are made. The WHO were reluctant to blamed GSK when they were charged with suppressing evidence of adverse reactions in the trials of the SSRI Seroxat. They said they were not influenced by the Pharmas but they did listen to what Charities and Patients group say. they seem to b unwares that 90% of those are dependant of Big Pharma money and subject to their influence.
Zoe repeats the WHO's defence,
"The organisation itself, not surprisingly, refutes this in the strongest terms. Gregory Hartl, a WHO spokesman, said: "Unequivocally, there is no influence on the WHO by big pharmaceutical companies. At the same time, we do have in place internal safeguards to ensure that vaccine manufacturers or individuals associated with them do not exert influence on WHO."
O.K. Well let's have some transparency. Who made the decisions and what are their declared interests? The WHO offers privacy as the only excuse for their secrecy. In the COE Strasbourg Hearing in January, they refused to give names. The world has been hurt by the declaration of the worst phase 6 Pandemic. £billions have been wased on vaccines of little value, the world has been scared witless and the priorities of health services throughout the world have been distorted. The world has the right to know who perpetrated this calamity.
Zoe's continues with the establishment hype,
"The British Medical Association is in complete accord. Its pandemic flu chief, Peter Holden, is adamant there were no vested interests anywhere near this – and furthermore puts it in context: the world was due a flu pandemic; the NHS had anticipated the crisis, putting out new guidance for GPs in January 2009; It is in the nature of epidemiology that it's a blunt tool – all you can do is move with the middle of the graph. So even within the borders of one nation, guidelines won't be right for everybody. "
It will not wash Zoe. But you do touch the significant factor that 'the world was a due a flue pandemic'. The First World War started in the same way. Every European country was expecting it. They armed, move their troops into position and awaited the spark of a minor incident in Sarajevo to start the conflagration. The WHO and the Pharmas were braced for a pandemic. Some very inaccurate evidence from Mexico was misinterpreted in Geneva and the great dread was visited on the world. The graph is a very wide one. Britain with 100 millions doses suffered twice the numbers of swine flu deaths per million of the population that Poland had with no doses. The Polish Minister was aghast at GSK's demand that her Government should foot the bill for all the costs of adverse effects of the vaccine. The UK agreed. Have a chat with me next time, Zoe.
You could have written a better article in glowing iambic pentameters.