by Bob Barr
From the onset of COVID, the World Health Organization (WHO) proved itself unfit for the task of managing a global pandemic. This was not for lack of funding or of access to international experts on virology and disease; the organization had plenty of both.
The WHO’s abject failure stemmed from its decision at the very start that its most important mission was to help Beijing save face over China’s role in the outbreak. With this goal in mind, the leadership intentionally downplayed any critical information about the virus that might be damaging to China’s international reputation.
It is impossible for us to ever really know what China’s actions cost the international community, by both initially hiding the COVID-19 outbreak and then interfering with efforts to study the virus during its early spread. A safe guess, however, would be millions of lives and trillions of dollars. As for WHO, it simply watched China set the house on fire, then blocked fire fighters from getting to the scene.
WHO’s role in helping China with this cover-up earned it a long-overdue rebuke by the Trump administration, which promised to pull U.S. funding from yet another international forum for anti-Americanism. Predictably, President Joe Biden reversed Trump’s efforts to defund WHO, but not because the organization has finally got its act together. In fact, with a recent announcement from WHO supporting a moratorium on COVID-19 vaccine boosters in the United States, the interests of WHO and those of the United States could not be more divergent.
Were WHO a neutral, public health-focused agency not controlled by outside bad actors, the call for a booster moratorium could be viewed as a misguided but earnest attempt to expand vaccine access to other, underserved countries. Considering WHO’s history, however, especially during COVID, the moratorium appears as an intentional effort to stymie the vaccination efforts being undertaken by wealthier nations, even as the international health agency expects to enjoy access to the product of American work and ingenuity.
Instead of requesting help with reaching nations that have not yet received initial doses of vaccines, such as seeking support for logistics, increased funding, or even supplementing vaccine supply (all of which would be reasonable to ask of the United States), the WHO wants to tie our country’s hands as we try to take care of our own citizens. “We should not accept countries that have already used most of the global supply of vaccines, using even more of it while the world’s most vulnerable people remain unprotected,” said WHO’s pious, two-faced director general.
The United States already has its hands full at home dealing with rank incompetence at the Centers for Disease Control, a long-festering problem that rendered the sprawling, Atlanta-based agency functionally useless at its core mission. It therefore boggles the mind why the U.S. would willingly fund a foreign agency that has shown itself similarly incompetent at disease prevention and control.
If, as appears increasingly likely, the GOP regains a congressional majority in next year’s election, the CDC and its international counterpart should be among the first agencies to face the fiscal knife cutters — the CDC for its inept handling of the COVID pandemic as well as for its decades of mission creep into policy areas far outside the scope of disease and virology, and the WHO for serving as little more than a mouthpiece for its puppet masters in Beijing.
To its credit, the Biden administration has called WHO’s proposed booster moratorium a “false choice,” but there is no indication it is reconsidering U.S. financial support. This is a huge mistake, though unsurprising coming from a president obsessed with being the “cool guy” in the international community.
If Biden possessed some semblance of a policy backbone, not one more dollar would be deposited into the coffers of the WHO. At most, America might supply health data that could benefit global research initiatives, but cooperation with the organization should stop right there.
The COVID vaccines are the product of American research and ingenuity, developed by American companies, and made possible, at least in part, by American taxpayers. No foreign government or agency should be permitted to tell us what we can and cannot do with the vaccines. Especially the China-pandering World Health Organization.
Bob Barr represented Georgia’s Seventh District in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1995 to 2003. He served as the United States Attorney in Atlanta from 1986 to 1990 and was an official with the CIA in the 1970s. He now practices law in Atlanta, Georgia and serves as head of Liberty Guard.