President Joe Biden’s administration is pushing amendments to the World Health Organization’s (WHO) governing regulations to give Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus unilateral authority to declare a public health emergency in any nation based on whatever evidence he chooses.
The proposed U.S. amendments were forwarded to the WHO in January for consideration next week by the UN’s 75th World Health Assembly in Geneva, Switzerland.
In a Jan. 26 letter to a virtual meeting of WHO’s executive board, Loyce Pace, Assistant Secretary for Global Affairs of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) described “the importance of equity and equitable access to medical countermeasures and the negative impacts of misinformation and disinformation related to the pandemic. We agree that we must all do better.
“The United States led an inclusive and transparent process to develop this decision, as we are mindful that updating and modernizing the IHR [International Health Regulations] are critical to ensuring the world is better prepared for and can respond to, the next pandemic.”
Among the proposed U.S. amendments, one removes an existing requirement in Section 9 that WHO “consult with and seek to obtain verification” from officials in a nation in which a health crisis is suspected before making any public declarations. The same amendment provides that “WHO may take into account reports from sources other than notifications or consultations” from the nation with the suspected problem.
A proposed change to Section 5 would direct WHO to establish “early warning criteria for assessing and progressively updating the national, regional, or global risk posed by an event of unknown causes or sources.”
A proposed amendment to Section 10 requires that the WHO, in the event the nation with the suspected problem doesn’t cooperate within 48 hours, shall “when justified by the magnitude of the public health risk, immediately share with other [nations] the information available to it.”
Nowhere do the amendments or accompanying documents explain how or why U.S. public health officials believe the equity issue in health care would be addressed by giving Tedros the authority to declare a public health emergency on the basis of information provided by a source other than the affected nation.
A search of the White House Press Office website found only one veiled reference to the WHO amendments. That reference was in a Feb. 2 Fact Sheet issued by the White House saying the U.S. “will continue to advance health security and pandemic preparedness abroad, including through strengthening WHO, working with partners towards targeted IHR amendments.”
The proposed amendment Section 5 of the WHO regulations also appears to parallel the Biden administration’s reference in a fact sheet on its proposed 2023 federal budget that was issued in April.
That reference commits the Biden administration to support “global threat detection innovations through a globally connected network of public health surveillance systems that optimizes disease prevention and health promotion as we strengthen surveillance initiatives to provide necessary actionable data before, during, and after a pandemic.”
“The budget includes $2.47 billion in mandatory funding for CDC to include enhancements to domestic sentinel surveillance programs, expansion of domestic and global wastewater surveillance, and investments in global genomic surveillance approaches, as well as global respiratory disease surveillance platforms,” the fact sheet states.
Respiratory surveillance platforms include video cameras and recorders that alert authorities when members of the public are seen coughing or otherwise acting in a manner that could indicate the presence of an infectious disease or help spread one already present in a population. Such equipment is widely used in China.
The Biden WHO amendments are the latest step in the current president’s efforts to reintegrate the U.S. with WHO after his predecessor, President Donald Trump, slashed U.S. funding to the international health organization and then gave notice of U.S. withdrawal.
One of Biden’s first acts as president was to withdraw Trump’s withdrawal notice and to restore U.S. funding, which accounts for half of WHO’s budget. Trump’s dissatisfaction with WHO stemmed from what he saw as the international health organization’s excessive deference to China regarding the origin of the CCP virus, which causes COVID-19.
A White House spokesman didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for information on the amendments and the administration’s rationale for the proposals. An HHS spokesman also didn’t respond to The Epoch Times’ request for comment.
Critics of the amendments such as Dr. Peter Breggin, however, have not been reluctant to comment on the proposed amendments.
“The amendments would give WHO the right to take important steps to collaborate with other nations and other organizations worldwide to deal with any nation’s alleged health crisis, even against its stated wishes,” Breggin said in a May 4 post under a byline shared with his wife, Ginger Ross Breggin.
“The power to declare health emergencies is a potential tool to shame, intimidate, and dominate nations. It can be used to justify ostracism and economic or financial actions against the targeted nation by other nations aligned with WHO or who wish to harm and control the accused nation,” Breggin wrote.
Peter Breggin is a Harvard-trained psychiatrist, former U.S. Public Health Service officer, and former National Institute on Mental Health (NIMH) consultant. Ginger Ross Breggin is a journalist, author, and medical reform advocate.
Travis Weber, vice president for policy and government affairs at the Washington, D.C.-based Family Research Council, told The Epoch Times that “the American people need to express concern with the White House, especially as our president representing us on the world stage—we need an explanation of what you are doing here and why.”
Weber said Biden administration officials have “not really talked about this, so we need reporters to ask them at a press conference what are they proposing and really get them to explain it. People can express their concern about that to the White House and express concern to their members of Congress, and we need Members of Congress to challenge the administration to explain themselves. Part one of this is: ‘What is going on, what are you proposing, and why.’”
Similarly, Mat Staver, founder and chairman of the Florida-based Liberty Counsel public interest law firm, told The Epoch Times that if the U.S. decided not to cooperate with WHO on a possible health emergency, and “say you had Trump back in office who wants to pull out, or you have somebody else who doesn’t want to deal with WHO, they could bring it before the International Court at the Hague for fines or some other form of restriction. They could coordinate with their other member nations to take actions with regards to supplies, sharing data or other documentation for trade, and who knows what the consequences of that would be.”
Liberty Counsel also pointed out in a statement on May 12 that a UN report claimed in May 2021 that the pandemic would have been avoided had the international health organization had greater authority.
That report also recommended that WHO be given “an adaptable incentive regime, [including] sanctions such as public reprimands, economic sanctions, or denial of benefits” to nations that don’t cooperate with it.