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No the director of the WHO did not go against the Scientific Council by declaring the international emergency

Is monkeypox less dangerous than health authorities claim? In any case, this is what Internet users say. “The director of the WHO has classified the epidemic as an international emergency against the advice of the Scientific Council”, writes one of them. “Since when can a person decide for himself what is an emergency? Isn’t the Scientific Council more qualified than the former Foreign Minister of Ethiopia? asks another.

The World Health Organization issued its highest level of alert for monkeypox on July 23. It was its general manager, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who announced it during a press conference. “I have decided to declare a public health emergency of international concern [USPPI] “, he announced, specifying that the risk in the world was relatively moderate except in Europe where it is high. Nearly 17,000 people were affected by the disease in 74 countries.

Did Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus really go against the advice of the WHO Scientific Council to declare an international emergency? 20 minutes make the point.

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Several Internet users claim to rely on an article published by Reuters. This indicates that “if he usually follows the recommendations of WHO experts, [Ghebreyesus] would have decided to come out in favor of the highest level of alert out of concern about the rapid increase in cases and the lack of stock of vaccines and treatments”. It is also possible to read: “Nine members of the committee of experts who met on Thursday were against this qualification, and six in favor. »

A first meeting was held on June 23, and eleven of the fourteen members spoke against the classification of monkeypox as a USPPI. In view of the evolution of the number of cases, a second meeting was held a month later. It was then that nine spoke out against the declaration of emergency, against six who were for it.

However, as the Director General reminded us during the press conference, these are not votes per se. “This is what is called in French a tour de table: they check what the position of the majority is, to determine where the discussion is going,” explained Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. The committee therefore has no decision-making power and is only there to give an opinion.

Thus, the director felt that since there was no single position, which was confirmed in the official statement, it was up to him to decide. “At the end of the day, the Council makes recommendations and it is my responsibility to accept it or not,” he explained.

And this is what the international health regulations stipulate: “The emergency committee […] prepares a brief report of its discussions and deliberations in which it includes its opinions on any recommendations. […] The opinion of the emergency committee is communicated to the director general for examination. The general manager decides in the last resort. This is therefore in no way a decision taken against the Scientific Council by the director himself. The classification of monkeypox as a public health emergency of international concern was done only according to the established procedure.

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