On 11 June 2009, the World Health Organization (WHO) officially
declared “Pandemic (H1N1) 2009”. The way in which the H1N1 influenza
pandemic has been handled, not only by WHO, but also by the competent
health authorities at the level of the European Union and at national
level, gives rise to alarm. Some of the consequences of decisions
taken and advice given are particularly troubling, as they led to
distortion of priorities of public health services across Europe,
waste of large sums of public money and also unjustified scares
and fears about health risks faced by the European public at large.
Grave shortcomings have been identified regarding the transparency
of decision-making processes relating to the pandemic which have
generated concerns about the possible influence of the pharmaceutical
industry on some of the major decisions relating to the pandemic.
It must be feared that this lack of transparency and accountability
will result in a plummet in confidence in the advice given by major
public health institutions.
The Parliamentary Assembly has shed light on the handling
of the H1N1 pandemic in the most comprehensive manner possible and
through an open dialogue with WHO and other players. It welcomes
the review processes that have been initiated by various public
health authorities, including WHO, and urges all stakeholders concerned
to share the results in order to learn from experience and ensure
that responsibility is taken for any errors made. The Assembly considers
that a thorough review of existing governance systems and the immediate
communication of essential information not yet published are of
utmost importance in order to re-establish confidence in major public
health decisions and advice with a view to ensuring that they be
followed in the case of the next infectious disease of global scope,
which may well be more severe.