No, the Director of WHO did not turn against the Scientific Council by declaring an international emergency

Is monkeypox less dangerous than health officials claim? At least that’s what internet users say. “The director of the WHO, contrary to the advice of the Scientific Council, has classified the epidemic as an international emergency,” writes one of them. “Since when can a person decide for themselves what an emergency is? Isn’t the Scientific Council more qualified than the former foreign minister of Ethiopia? asks another.

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

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


Several netizens claim to be citing an article published by Reuters. This suggests that “if he normally follows the recommendations of WHO experts, [Ghebreyesus] would have decided to go on high alert out of concern about the rapid increase in cases and the lack of vaccines and treatments.” You can also read: “Nine members of the expert committee that met on Thursday were against this qualification, six in favor. »

A first meeting was held on June 23 and eleven of the fourteen members opposed the designation of monkeypox as a USPPI. Given the evolution of the number of cases, a second meeting was held a month later. At that time, nine spoke out against the declaration of emergency, six against.

However, as the Director-General reminded us during the press conference, these are not votes per se. “It’s called a tour de table in French: they examine the position of the majority to see where the discussion is going,” explained Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus . The Committee therefore has no decision-making powers and is only intended to issue an opinion.

Since there was not a single position confirmed in the official statement, the director felt it was up to him to decide. “At the end of the day, the Council makes recommendations and it is my responsibility to adopt them or not,” he explained.

And this is what the international health regulations dictate: “The Emergency Committee […] draws up a brief report of its discussions and deliberations, in which it gives its views on any recommendations. […] The opinion of the Emergency Committee is transmitted to the Director-General for consideration. The managing director decides in the final instance. It is therefore in no way a matter of a decision by the Director himself against the Scientific Council. The classification of monkeypox as a Public Health Emergency of International Concern was made only according to the established procedure.

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