AMA says cutting funding during a pandemic ’is not in the U.S. interests’

President Donald J. Trump’s statement on April 14 that he was going to halt funding of the the World Health Organization (WHO) because of his perception of its handling of the Covid-19 pandemic was met with sharp rebuke by the American Medical Association (AMA), Bill Gates, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and even the CDC.

“During the worst public health crisis in a century, halting funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) is a dangerous step in the wrong direction that will not make defeating Covid-19 easier,” Patrice A. Harris, MD, AMA President, said in a statement. “Fighting a global pandemic requires international cooperation and reliance on science and data. Cutting funding to the WHO — rather than focusing on solutions — is a dangerous move at a precarious moment for the world. The AMA is deeply concerned by this decision and its wide-ranging ramifications, and we strongly urge the President to reconsider.”

CDC Director Robert Redfield said that the organization would continue to work with WHO as the world fights the pandemic.

“I’m just going to say the WHO has been a longstanding partner for CDC. We’ve worked together to fight health crises around the world,” he said, noting that the groups have worked side by side to address the Ebola outbreak in Congo, The Hill reports. “We’re working, obviously, together on this coronavirus… I think it’s important at this point that we leave the analysis of what could have been done better… to once we get through this outbreak.”

Bill Gates tweeted: “Halting funding for the World Health Organization during a world health crisis is as dangerous as it sounds. Their work is slowing the spread of Covid-19 and if that work is stopped no other organization can replace them. The world needs @WHO now more than ever.”

The statement from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce was a bit more measured, given that organization views WHO as needing some reform. Nonetheless, as reported by The Hill, the Chamber’s executive vice president and head of international affairs said in a statement: “The Chamber supports a reformed but functional World Health Organization, and U.S. leadership and involvement are essential to ensuring its transparency and accountability going forward… However, cutting the WHO’s funding during the Covid-19 pandemic is not in U.S. interests given the organization’s critical role assisting other countries — particularly in the developing world — in their response.”

During a press briefing in the Rose Garden, Trump laid the blame for his slow uptake to respond to the pandemic at WHO’s feet and its “role in severely mismanaging and covering up the spread of the coronavirus. Everybody knows what’s going on there.”

Trump said that WHO opposed the U.S. ban on travel from China, but as Stat News pointed out, “the record doesn’t bear the president’s claim out… Senior leaders of WHO, including Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, have been holding three-times weekly press briefings for several months now. They have not overtly criticized the United States — or any other country — for instituting travel bans.”

In fact, on February 20 and during nearly all WHO press briefings, Ghebreyesus said this: “The number of cases in the rest of the world is very small compared to what we have in China but that may not stay the same for long. The window of opportunity we have now may close, so we need to use the window of opportunity we have now by hammering the outbreak in any country.”

Yet Trump persisted: “Many countries said, ’We’re going to listen to the WHO,’ and they have problems the likes of which they cannot believe. Nobody can believe….” He continued to state that WHO did not share information in a “timely and transparent fashion.”

WHO’s press briefings on what was then novel coronavirus 2019-CoV began on January 22.

While Trump may continue to not take responsibility for the pandemic’s grip on the United States and has decided to make WHO the scapegoat, Covid-19 cases here are well past the half million mark, — more than any other country — and deaths are approaching 25,000. And, John’s Hopkins has now given the U.S. its own tracking map.

Candace Hoffmann, Managing Editor, BreakingMED™

Cat ID: 125

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