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Brownstone Institute

The WHO’s Proposed Pandemic Agreements Worsen Public Health


13 minute read

From the Brownstone Institute


The WHO decided that the response for a Toronto aged care resident and a young mother in a Malawian village should be essentially the same – stop them from meeting family and working, then inject them with the same patented chemicals.

Much has been written on the current proposals putting the World Health Organization (WHO) front and center of future pandemic responses. With billions of dollars in careers, salaries, and research funding on the table, it is difficult for many to be objective. However, there are fundamentals here that everyone with public health training should agree upon. Most others, if they take time to consider, would also agree. Including, when divorced from party politicking and soundbites, most politicians.

So here, from an orthodox public health standpoint, are some problems with the proposals on pandemics to be voted on at the World Health Assembly at the end of this month.

Unfounded Messaging on Urgency

The Pandemic Agreement (treaty) and IHR amendments have been promoted based on claims of a rapidly increasing risk of pandemics. In fact, they pose an ‘existential threat’ (i.e. one that may end our existence) according to the G20’s High Level Independent Panel in 2022. However, the increase in reported natural outbreaks on which the WHO, the World Bank, G20, and others based these claims is shown to be unfounded in a recent analysis from the UK’s University of Leeds. The main database on which most outbreak analyses rely, the GIDEON database, shows a reduction in natural outbreaks and resultant mortality over the past 10 to 15 years, with the prior increase between 1960 and 2000 fully consistent with the development of the technologies necessary to detect and record such outbreaks; PCR, antigen and serology tests, and genetic sequencing.

The WHO does not refute this but simply ignores it. Nipah viruses, for example, only ‘emerged’ in the late 1990s when we found ways to actually detect them. Now we can readily distinguish new variants of coronavirus to promote uptake of pharmaceuticals. The risk does not change by detecting them; we just change the ability to notice them. We also have the ability to modify viruses to make them worse – this is a relatively new problem. But do we really want an organization influenced by China, with North Korea on its executive board (insert your favorite geopolitical rivals), to manage a future bioweapons emergency?

Irrespective of growing evidence that Covid-19 was not a natural phenomenon, modelling that the World Bank quotes as suggesting a 3x increase in outbreaks over the next decade actually predicts that a Covid-like event will recur less than once per century. Diseases that the WHO uses to suggest an increase in outbreaks over the past 20 years, including cholera, plague, yellow fever, and influenza variants were orders of magnitude worse in past centuries.

This all makes it doubly confusing that the WHO is breaking its own legal requirements in order to push through a vote without Member States having time to properly review implications of the proposals. The urgency must be for reasons other than public health need. Others can speculate why, but we are all human and all have egos to protect, even when preparing legally binding international agreements.

Low Relative Burden

The burden (e.g. death rate or life years lost) of acute outbreaks is a fraction of the overall disease burden, far lower than many endemic infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis, and a rising burden of non-communicable disease. Few natural outbreaks over the past 20 years have resulted in more than 1,000 deaths – or 8 hours of tuberculosis mortality. Higher-burden diseases should dominate public health priorities, however dull or unprofitable they may seem.

With the development of modern antibiotics, major outbreaks from the big scourges of the past like Plague and typhus ceased to occur. Though influenza is caused by a virus, most deaths are also due to secondary bacterial infections. Hence, we have not seen a repeat of the Spanish flu in over a century. We are better at healthcare than we used to be and have improved nutrition (generally) and sanitation. Widespread travel has eliminated the risks of large immunologically naive populations, making our species more immunologically resilient. Cancer and heart disease may be increasing, but infectious diseases overall are declining. So where should we focus?

Lack of Evidence Base

Investment in public health requires both evidence (or high likelihood) that the investment will improve outcomes and an absence of significant harm. The WHO has demonstrated neither with their proposed interventions. Neither has anyone else. The lockdown and mass vaccination strategy promoted for Covid-19 resulted in a disease that predominantly affects elderly sick people leading to 15 million excess deaths, even increasing mortality in young adults. In past acute respiratory outbreaks, things got better after one or perhaps two seasons, but with Covid-19 excess mortality persisted.

Within public health, this would normally mean we check whether the response caused the problem. Especially if it’s a new type of response, and if past understanding of disease management predicted that it would. This is more reliable than pretending that past knowledge did not exist. So again, the WHO (and other public-private partnerships) are not following orthodox public health, but something quite different.

Centralization for a Highly Heterogeneous Problem

Twenty-five years ago, before private investors became so interested in public health, it was accepted that decentralization was sensible. Providing local control to communities that could then prioritize and tailor health interventions themselves can provide better outcomes. Covid-19 underlined the importance of this, showing how uneven the impact of an outbreak is, determined by population age, density, health status, and many other factors. To paraphrase the WHO, ‘Most people are safe, even when some are not.’

However, for reasons that remain unclear to many, the WHO decided that the response for a Toronto aged care resident and a young mother in a Malawian village should be essentially the same – stop them from meeting family and working, then inject them with the same patented chemicals. The WHO’s private sponsors, and even the two largest donor countries with their strong pharmaceutical sectors, agreed with this approach. So too did the people paid to implement it. It was really only history, common sense, and public health ethics that stood in the way, and they proved much more malleable.

Absence of Prevention Strategies Through Host Resilience

The WHO IHR amendments and Pandemic Agreement are all about detection, lockdowns, and mass vaccination. This would be good if we had nothing else. Fortunately, we do. Sanitation, better nutrition, antibiotics, and better housing halted the great scourges of the past. An article in the journal Nature in 2023 suggested that just getting vitamin D at the right level may have cut Covid-19 mortality by a third. We already knew this and can speculate on why it became controversial. It’s really basic immunology.

Nonetheless, nowhere within the proposed US$30+ billion annual budget is any genuine community and individual resilience supported. Imagine putting a few billion more into nutrition and sanitation. Not only would you dramatically reduce mortality from occasional outbreaks, but more common infectious diseases, and metabolic diseases such as diabetes and obesity, would also go down. This would actually reduce the need for pharmaceuticals. Imagine a pharmaceutical company, or investor, promoting that. It would be great for public health, but a suicidal business approach.

Conflicts of Interest

All of which brings us, obviously, to conflicts of interest. The WHO, when formed, was essentially funded by countries through a core budget, to address high-burden diseases on country request. Now, with 80% of its use of funds specified directly by the funder, its approach is different. If that Malawian village could stump up tens of millions for a program, they would get what they ask for. But they don’t have that money; Western countries, Pharma, and software moguls do.

Most people on earth would grasp that concept far better than a public health workforce heavily incentivized to think otherwise. This is why the World Health Assembly exists and has the ability to steer the WHO in directions that don’t harm their populations. In its former incarnation, the WHO considered conflict of interest to be a bad thing. Now, it works with its private and corporate sponsors, within the limits set by its Member States, to mold the world to their liking.

The Question Before Member States

To summarize, while it’s sensible to prepare for outbreaks and pandemics, it’s even more sensible to improve health. This involves directing resources to where the problems are and using them in a way that does more good than harm. When people’s salaries and careers become dependent on changing reality, reality gets warped. The new pandemic proposals are very warped. They are a business strategy, not a public health strategy. It is the business of wealth concentration and colonialism – as old as humanity itself.

The only real question is whether the majority of the Member States of the World Health Assembly, in their voting later this month, wish to promote a lucrative but rather amoral business strategy, or the interests of their people.


  • David Bell

    David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

Brownstone Institute

Tedros Must Face Reality

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


It would be easier to ignore the World Health Assembly’s (WHA) deliberations in Geneva this week, but the  opening address of the Director-General, Tedros Ghebreyesus, deserves a response. Both the WHO and its director are completely divorcing themselves from reality, illustrating how dangerous and unfit for purpose the WHO has become. There is clearly no way that any vote should proceed on anything of importance that the WHO may be required to implement in the coming week of WHA deliberations.

Tedros’s emphasis was on pandemics, and the faltering agreements intended to address their risk, the new Pandemic Agreement, and amendments to the International Health Regulations (IHR). While these are watered down and the Pandemic Agreement may not even get to a vote, his continued justification for centering greater coordination and power at the WHO speaks volumes about the problem we face.

The Covid-19 period has resulted, as Tedros notes in his address, in up to 20 million additional deaths. WHO-supported policies achieved this, for a virus whose mortality mostly occurred in chronically sick people over 75 years of age. The WHO notes that a little over 7 million are directly attributable to the virus. Many of these other 13 million occurred in low- and middle-income countries, in populations where less than 1% of people are over 75 years old and half are under twenty, such as those of sub-Saharan Africa.

This is a staggering, appalling, incompetent, and entirely predictable achievement. However, it is going to get much worse. The policies the WHO promoted closed supply lines, shut down the workplaces of tens of millions of day laborers, stopped travel and tourism income on which millions of low-income people rely, closed markets, and pushed over hundreds of millions into severe poverty. They increased the indebtedness of nations globally, with direct effects on child mortality and the ability to grow future economies.

As predicted by the WHO itself, malaria and tuberculosis deaths have increased, and they will stay higher as the impact of increased poverty bites. Funding for essential sanitation and nutrition programs has dropped as the WHO pushed for a shift in funding to mass vaccination in countries with young populations for a disease of the elderly to which they were already immune, supported with frankly idiotic slogans with more to do with advertising than public health, such as “No one is safe until everyone is safe.”

In closing schools, for up to two years in some countries, the world has cemented in intergenerational poverty and inequality, overwhelmingly harming hundreds of millions of children at most future risk. Child labor has increased, and up to ten million additional girls are being forced into child marriage with the poverty and abuse that entails. When Tedros states in his opening WHA speech that “the whole world was taken hostage,” this should be what he is referring to. The world was taken hostage by the appalling people who took over public health, used the WHO as a tool with its leadership’s consent, and made hundreds of billions of dollars in profit through these harms foisted on others. Indeed, as Tedros notes, “covid has affected everybody.

Amidst all this rhetoric, the WHO is completely ignoring, and knowingly misrepresenting, what their own data tells them on the risk of natural pandemics. Whilst deliberately misleading countries and the media with claims that the risk of pandemics is rapidly increasing, they are fully aware that deaths from infectious diseases, and pandemics, have decreased over past centuries and are decreasing now. The databases and citations of reports from the WHO, the World Bank, and G20 High Level Independent Panel attest to this.

The causes of infectious disease deaths predominantly revolve around poor nutrition, sanitation, and supply lines for basic medicines. All these, improving before 2020, are now put at risk. Pretending that new diagnostic technologies that allow us to distinguish small virus outbreaks from the declining background constitute increased risk is a public health fallacy that must surely be deliberate. When Tedros states that the drafting teams of the pandemic texts “operated amid a torrent of mis- and disinformation,” he is correct, but it was not from the source he suggests.

So, when we are told that the “world was unprepared” for Covid-19, we should understand that we were unprepared for the hijacking of the WHO and public health policy, not for a virus that had an infection fatality rate in most countries little different than influenza. Pretending that deaths from ‘lockdowns’ were due to Covid adds to the current denial of reality. Lockdown was and should remain a term describing imprisonment. In public health it has been promoted by those who ended up gaining from the Covid debacle; private and corporate funders and their followers. There is a reason why public health previously stressed honest messaging and individual choice.

If the world is to actually address the risk presented by a repeat of Covid, then it had better address its cause – which looks increasingly likely to have been a laboratory leak from gain-of-function research. Nothing in the texts of the proposed Pandemic Agreement or IHR amendments even refers to this. Spending tens of billions per year on a surveillance network for natural threats will impoverish millions and divert funds from diseases of far higher burden, but do nothing to address the problem of research laboratories being paid to enhance virus virulence in humans. The proposed PABS scheme in the Pandemic Agreement in which the WHO will oversee increased passage of pathogens between laboratories and WHO-partnered pharmaceutical companies will likely do more to raise risk than reduce it.

We can all be relieved that the proposed pandemic texts are watered down from their egregious original versions and the Pandemic Agreement is unready for this WHA session. However, any increased coordination of power in the hands of the WHO, in its current state, is dangerous. The world has undergone enough damage in the past four years through misdirection and deliberate misinformation from an international agency that always knew better. Until the root causes of this are addressed, including ever-increasing influence on the organization of private individuals and corporate entities, and the glaring conflicts of interest in related public-private partnerships such as Gavi and CEPI, the world does indeed remain at increasing risk of the repeat of the disaster to which it was recently subjected.

We must first address the reasons why international public health is now about profit and centralization, rather than the health of populations. This won’t happen under the current version of the WHO, and does not appear on the WHA agenda. We are facing a mass denial of reality by the WHO and its leadership. Until this is rectified, any WHA votes that grant further powers or oversight to the WHO are unlikely to be in the interests of the world’s population, or the countries within which they live.


  • David Bell

    David Bell, Senior Scholar at Brownstone Institute, is a public health physician and biotech consultant in global health. He is a former medical officer and scientist at the World Health Organization (WHO), Programme Head for malaria and febrile diseases at the Foundation for Innovative New Diagnostics (FIND) in Geneva, Switzerland, and Director of Global Health Technologies at Intellectual Ventures Global Good Fund in Bellevue, WA, USA.

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Brownstone Institute

BMJ Exposes Scientific American’s Editor-in-Chief

Published on

From the Brownstone Institute


In a shot across the bow against Scientific American’s continued descent into unscientific twaddle, a BMJ investigation documented over a dozen social media posts by editor-in-chief Laura Helmuth promoting transgender care for children, despite scientific evidence showing such treatment has had “devastating consequences” for minors.

“Laws preventing trans kids from getting gender-affirming treatment are dangerous and abusive, as well as against all medical evidence,” Helmuth posted on X in late 2022, one of many examples that the BMJ sent to Scientific American and its publisher Springer Nature, asking them to explain Helmuth’s trans advocacy which runs contrary to medical evidence.

In other social media posts, Helmuth has labeled critics of dangerous transgender medicine for children “biased,” “bigoted,” “antiscience,” “misinformation,” “cruel,” and compared them to Nazis.

Last year, Helmut promoted false news in Scientific American that argued, “The research is clear and all the relevant medical organizations agree: Gender-affirming care is evidence-based & medically necessary & leads to much better outcomes for trans kids than refusing them care.”

Six days later, the BMJ released an investigation of new research finding that the evidence for transgender care for children lacked evidence and that medical authorities were urging caution.

England, Scotland, Wales, and Sweden have all ceased prescribing puberty blockers for children, except for research studies, and the Finnish psychiatrist who first founded the field of transgender care for children now calls it “dangerous.” Many countries’ medical authorities have concluded that studies promoting trans treatment for children were either biased or of low quality.

The BMJ’s targeting of Laura Helmuth was a warning, of sorts—an admonition that Helmuth should focus on science, cease the advocacy, and stop saying stupid things. But if you continue to read Scientific American, expect Helmuth to continue saying stupid things.

Last month, Harvard’s Steven Pinker labeled Helmuth a “woke fanatic” on X and promoted an article discussing Scientific American’s descent into progressive ideology. “Another noble American institution run into the ground when clueless trustees handed over the keys to a woke fanatic,” Pinker posted.

The article Pinker promoted appeared in City Journal (“Unscientific American”) and carefully documented the magazine’s decline into a political rag since Helmuth took the reins in early 2020. Other outlets have also cast a disapproving eye on Helmuth’s political crusades.

The Wall Street Journal noted that Helmuth tweeted last year that “sparrows have four different chromosomally distinct sexes,” forcing the community notes on X to correct Helmuth’s error.

“It’s just incredible how far @sciam — a periodical I admired — has fallen from its mission to provide accurate, clear, and vivid coverage of science,” Yale professor and physician Nicholas Christakis, posted on X.

“EXCLUSIVE: unScientific American! Popular magazine is slammed by experts over ‘woke’ article titled ‘Why Human Sex is Not Binary’,” reported the Daily Mail, a few months prior to Christakis’ criticism of Helmuth. Dr Carole Hooven, an evolutionary biologist at Harvard University, told the Daily Mail that Scientific American’s unscientific claims could put women in danger.

“On average, men are bigger and stronger than women, and commit the overwhelming majority of rapes and murders. Most men could kill most women with their bare hands,” Hooven explained. “These facts have informed the establishment of laws and social policies that protect female spaces, particularly those where women are in vulnerable positions such as where they sleep or shower (prison cells and locker rooms, for example).”

Chicago University emeritus professor of ecology and evolution, Jerry Coyne, has written several times about Helmuth promoting factually inaccurate claims in Scientific Americanwhich he labeled “Scientific Pravda.”

Somebody called my attention to three new articles and op-eds in Scientific American that have no science in them, but are pure ideology of the “progressive” sort.  I agree with some of the sentiments expressed in them, as in the first one. But my point is, as usual, to show how everything in science, including its most widely-read “popular” magazine, is being taken over by ideology. Not only that, but it’s ideology of only one stripe: Leftist “progressive” (or “woke,” if you will) ideology, so that the “opinion” section is not a panoply of divergent views, but gives only one view, like a Scientific Pravda.  Remember that the editor refused when I offered to write an op-ed expressing different (but of course not right-wing) views.

In a previous City Journal article in 2022, science writer Nicholas Wade called Scientific American’s shift away from science a “new Lysenkoism” referring to the Soviet doctrine that forced biologists to ignore evolution and the genetics of plants to conform to political ideology.

And in an investigation I conducted for the BMJ (“The covid-19 lab leak hypothesis: did the media fall victim to a misinformation campaign?”) I noted that Helmuth harassed CDC Director Robert Redfield for telling CNN he thought the Covid virus may have come from a Wuhan lab:

The growing tendency to treat the lab leak scenario as worthy of serious investigation has put some reporters on the defensive. After Robert Redfield, former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, appeared on CNN in March, Scientific American’s editor in chief, Laura Helmuth, tweeted, “On CNN, former CDC director Robert Redfield shared the conspiracy theory that the virus came from the Wuhan lab.” The following day, Scientific American ran an essay calling the lab leak theory “evidence free.”

In short, Helmuth is a political fanatic who doesn’t care much for science, unless it’s science that fits her personal politics.

The BMJ’s investigation highlighted the Cass Review which found little evidence to support Helmuth’s claims that the puberty blockers or other trans therapy for children are safe, including surgery. Dr. Hilary Cass is a British physician and former president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, who spent three years examining the evidence for treating gender-questioning young people.

In a recent interview with the New York Times, Dr. Cass said that doctors in the United States are “out of date” with understanding trans care for children. “But what some organizations are doing is doubling down on saying the evidence is good,” Dr. Cass told the New York Times. “And I think that’s where you’re misleading the public.”

And in podcast for the BMJ, Dr. Cass noted that of the 100 studies for puberty blockers and hormone treatment, only two were of passable quality. She also dismissed claims by activists such as Helmuth that trans care lowers risk of suicide in children.

“There, unfortunately, is not evidence that gender affirming treatment in its broadest sense reduces the suicide risk,” Dr. Cass said, during the BMJ podcast.

Below are several social media posts by Laura Helmuth crusading for trans care for kids—many of them dangerous messages for children, all lacking quality medical evidence.

To find the latest quality medical evidence on trans care for children, please read The Cass Review, which NHS England commissioned to improve NHS gender identity services, and ensure that children and young people who are questioning their gender identity or experiencing gender dysphoria receive a high standard of care, that meets their needs, is safe, holistic, and effective.

Republished from the author’s Substack


  • Paul Thacker

    Paul D. Thacker is an Investigative Reporter; Former Investigator United States Senate; Former Fellow Safra Ethics Center, Harvard University

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