At today’s hearing, several committee members pressed the WHO and vaccine company officials on two main issues. They expressed deep suspicions that vaccine industry experts on WHO advisory groups improperly influenced the WHO’s assessment of the pandemic in order to financially benefit pharmaceutical companies. Council members also questioned the WHO official, Dr Keiji Fukuda, special advisor on pandemic influenza to the WHO director-general, about confusion surrounding consideration of severity in its definition of a pandemic, which was revised at about the time the novel H1N1 virus was identified.
Some government public health officials and influenza experts have strongly rejected Wodarg’s claims, defending vaccine stockpiling as a prudent public health response and calling the charges “preposterous.”
In his opening statement, Wodarg said he was skeptical about the threat of the H5N1 virus and the contracts that countries had in place with vaccine makers in the event of a pandemic. “WHO had the trigger,” he said, alluding to the pandemic plans of some countries that activate the contracts when the WHO declares the highest alert level. He speculated that vaccine makers are making a financial windfall from what he claims are more expensive patented and adjuvanted vaccines. He also argued that the billions that governments have spent on pandemic vaccines could be better spent on other health issues.
He charged that the change in pandemic definition “made it possible to turn a run-of-the-mill flu into a pandemic and translate into millions for vaccine for no good reason.”
Wodarg also claimed that adjuvanted vaccines used in Europe were not adequately tested, especially in children, and expressed doubts about the safety of cell-based pandemic vaccines.