The World Health Organization is supposed to be the premiere global authority on diseases, research and information relating to public well being.
Unfortunately, we’ve learned that the agency has been misleading, and appears to have a peculiar proclivity toward disseminating false information and kowtowing to China’s authoritarian government.
The WHO, which is part of the United Nations, is now operating with its credibility diminished, and its suggestions relating to the global coronavirus pandemic are under increased scrutiny.
So it should come as little surprise that the WHO again dropped the ball on information about the COVID-19 crisis last week, when it was forced to walk back a statement on Twitter that struck a fearful tone about the virus.
Reason reported the WHO posted and deleted a tweet Saturday claiming there’s “no evidence” that people with coronavirus antibodies who have already recovered are immune from the virus.
The tweet accompanied a scientific brief published Friday on so-called “immunity passports” that weighed whether governments should allow citizens who have recovered from the coronavirus — and have antibodies — to travel and return to work.
“There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from #COVID19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” the WHO’s deleted tweet, which was a pull quote from the brief, read.
The misleading tweet initiated a flurry of gloomy news reports.
“No evidence antibodies protect people from second COVID-19 infection, WHO says,” CBS News reported.
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BuzzFeed News, citing the WHO, told its audience, “No Studies Have Yet Shown That You’ll Be Immune To The Coronavirus If You’ve Been Infected Before.”
NPR also seized on the information, and reported, “The World Health Organization has pushed back against the theory that individuals can only catch the coronavirus once, as well as proposals for reopening society that are based on this supposed immunity.”
Of course, there were those who called out the WHO for its misleading tweet.
Nate Silver, the statistician who founded the statistical analysis site FiveThirtyEight, was among those critical of the agency’s language.
“WHO needs to improve its communication on this. When they say ‘no evidence’ they mean something like ‘no definitive proof, yet,’” Silver wrote. “But the average person is going to read it as ‘there’s no immunity to coronavirus,’ which is likely false and not a good summation of the evidence.”
“The consensus of the evidence, as best as I can tell, is that there’s very likely to be some degree of immunity, although we don’t know how absolute it is and for how long it confers and there’s still a lot to be learned about it,” Silver added.
The consensus of the evidence, as best as I can tell, is that there’s very likely to be some degree of immunity, although we don’t know how absolute it is and for how long it confers and there’s still a lot to be learned about it. https://t.co/VKIyTMK2Eu
— Nate Silver (@NateSilver538) April 25, 2020
Reason’s Robby Soave also summed up the issue well, pointing out that “the tweet version of the brief was missing important context.”
“There’s no evidence of immunity. But that’s because COVID-19 is new and the matter hasn’t been conclusively studied yet. Scientists have good reason to expect COVID-19 survivors to have some immunity to the virus, though they’re unsure how strong it will be or how long it will last,” he wrote.
The WHO ended up deleting the irresponsible tweet and issued a clarification.
“Earlier today we tweeted about a new WHO scientific brief on ‘immunity passports’. The thread caused some concern & we would like to clarify,” the WHO tweeted.
“We expect that most people who are infected with #COVID19 will develop an antibody response that will provide some level of protection.”
Earlier today we tweeted about a new WHO scientific brief on ‘immunity passports’. The thread caused some concern & we would like to clarify:
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 25, 2020
The WHO also thanked Silver and others for their “constructive input.”
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) April 25, 2020
The WHO can write its fear-mongering tweets and issue follow-up clarifications, but information from the agency is borderline immaterial at this point.
Its credibility has been severely compromised in the eyes of many people seeking facts about a disease that has affected every aspect of life.
This is the same agency that cited Chinese authorities when it told the world in January that “no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission” of the virus had been found.
Preliminary investigations conducted by the Chinese authorities have found no clear evidence of human-to-human transmission of the novel #coronavirus (2019-nCoV) identified in #Wuhan, #China🇨🇳. pic.twitter.com/Fnl5P877VG
— World Health Organization (WHO) (@WHO) January 14, 2020
We all know how that information turned out.
The WHO damaged itself when it blindly accepted Communist Party of China information about the virus and made itself complicit in the disease becoming the unprecedented global health and economic emergency it is today.
Now, it has had to walk back a statement that may have misled people into believing that COVID-19 infections could turn into a never-ending carousel of reinfection and sickness.
The WHO dropped the ball on the pandemic from the very beginning, and the ball continues to roll away from of its grasp.
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