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The Lancet: Cutting Ties With WHO Will Make Americans Far Less Safe

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“The U.S.A. cannot cut ties with the WHO without incurring major disruption and damage, making Americans far less safe,” said the commentary, which was co-authored by 15 scholars from renowned American universities, the American Public Health Association and the National Academy of Sciences in Argentina.

Trump administration ‘violates U.S. law’

U.S. President Donald Trump announced the country would sever its relationship with the WHO on May 29, one month after he halted U.S. funding to the United Nations health agency over its alleged poor handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Trump administration notified the United Nations of its withdrawal from the WHO earlier this week.

World Health Organization (WHO) Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus attend a news conference at the WHO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, July 3, 2020. /Reuters

The “unilateral action notifying the UN” violates U.S. law, the commentary said, noting that the Trump administration “does not have express approval of Congress” to quit the organization.

The United States joined the WHO “through a 1948 joint resolution passed by both houses of Congress” and the decision to leave the body and terminate its funding violates a binding condition in that resolution, the article explained.

“The law mandates the U.S.A. must pay its financial obligations for the current fiscal year. Because withdrawal could not occur until next July, the U.S.A. must pay its mandatory WHO contributions through the end of 2021,” it said.

If Trump loses the presidential election in November, a new administration “could simply revoke the withdrawal upon taking office,” it added.

Leaving WHO means ‘limited access to vaccine’

“The WHO has unmatched global reach and legitimacy,” the commentary said. “The U.S. administration would be hard pressed to disentangle the country from WHO governance and programs.”

It noted that “there are 21 WHO collaborating centers at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and three at the National Institutes of Health, focused on U.S. priorities.”

A laboratory technician prepares COVID-19 patient samples for semi-automatic testing at Northwell Health Labs, in Lake Success, New York, U.S., March 11, 2020. /AP

When seasonal influenza strikes in autumn, the U.S. “could be cut out of the global system to design annual influenza vaccines” after leaving the WHO, whose Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System collects data worldwide and studies circulating viruses, the scholars said in the article.

“Severing ties with the WHO could impede U.S. access to crucial tools for developing biological countermeasures to influenza,” they stressed.

Currently, the UN body is conducting the “Solidarity Trial” for COVID-19 treatments joined by over 100 countries. “If the U.S.A. does not participate in these WHO initiatives, Americans could have limited access to scarce vaccine supplies, and are likely to be barred from travel to foreign destinations,” the commentary said.

The number of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is over three million, and the death toll has surpassed 132,000. Both numbers are the largest in the world.

A COVID-19 vaccine is vital for both safeguarding public health and safely reopening the society, the scholars pointed out.

In addition, the U.S. would not be able to promote crucial reforms of the WHO after leaving it, they argued.

“Health and security in the U.S.A. and globally require robust collaboration with the WHO – a cornerstone of U.S. funding and policy since 1948,” they said.

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First Batch of Chinese COVID-19 Vaccine Lands in Serbia

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The first batch of one million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine developed by China’s Beijing-based pharmaceutical company Sinopharm arrived in Belgrade, Serbia at 9:50 a.m. local time on Saturday.

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, local officials, and Chinese Ambassador to Serbia Chen Bo received the consignment at Nikola Tesla International Airport in Belgrade.

Vucic said that the arrival of the vaccine is “proof of the great friendship between Serbia and China,” and it will help protect the lives of 500,000 people, adding he will also get vaccinated with the Sinopharm vaccine.

The vaccinations will start once the Chinese vaccine gets a final approval by Serbia’s Agency for Medicines and Medical Devices.

“As an ordinary person and the president of Serbia, I am convinced of the quality of the Chinese vaccine, which will be decided by our competent agency,” Vucic said.

Serbia has also purchased Russia’s Sputnik V COVID-19 vaccine as well as a jab jointly developed by America’s Pfizer and Germany’s BioNTech.

The country started its COVID-19 vaccination drive late last month, and so far the country has obtained around 1.4 million doses of vaccines.

Nearly 370,000 COVID-19 infections have been reported in Serbia, while 3,708 people have died. A total of 5,409 patients are hospitalized across the country, of whom 196 have been put on respiratory ventilators.

During the pandemic, aside from providing medical supplies, China sent a medical expert team to Serbia which stayed there for months to help Serbian authorities coordinate the country’s anti-pandemic response, and the Chinese BGI group, a genome research company, also assisted the country build two “Fire Eye” testing labs.

Chinese Ambassador Chen said that Serbia and China are fighting the coronavirus side by side, and “China is the first country in the world to promise that its vaccine will be a global public good.”

“The Sinopharm vaccine was officially registered in China on December 30, and it arrived in Serbia only after 16 days. The arrival of the Chinese vaccine is part of our joint fight against the virus, and I believe it will contribute to fighting the epidemic in Serbia,” Chen said.

(With input from Xinhua)

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Infrastructure For Tomorrow: Interview With AIIB Vice President On Response To Future Challenges

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WHO Spokesperson Reveals Details Of Its Expert Team Visit To Wuhan

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Even as vaccines are rolled out, COVID-19 continues to ravage the world, having caused nearly 2 million deaths. The situation is in dire need of stronger global cooperation. That spirit can be at least reflected by the latest World Health Organization (WHO) expert team’s visit to China which will start in Wuhan, where the first cases of infections in China were reported.

“This is about understanding what happened so that the world can be better equipped as the world to prevent it happening again,” said WHO spokesperson Margaret Harris in an exclusive interview with CGTN host Tian Wei. She stressed that the field trip is “not about finding someone to blame. Let’s leave the politics out of it.”

Dr. Harris revealed that preparations about the mission started last October. There were a few virtual meetings held since then. This trip will be about a wide variety of subjects related to the discovery research of the origins of COVID-19. While no quick answers are expected.

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The WHO team of 10 experts from 10 different countries are expected to visit the Chinese city Wuhan, where cases of infections were first reported at the end of 2019. Yet later discoveries found the presence of the virus in Spain, Italy and the U.S., demonstrating how much is still unknown about the virus.

While the world is bogged down by this pandemic, there appear a few COVID-19 vaccine candidates that have been developed at unprecedented speed. But that very fact has made people uneasy: was it developed too fast? Are those vaccines trustworthy?

“People should be concerned about the safety issues,” noted Dr. Harris, but she explained that one thing that has really slowed down vaccine development in the past was getting the funding for the studies, and this time that part got ample support.

Harris said that only after very careful review of data on issues of safety and efficacy, and visiting manufacturing factories, would the WHO put a vaccine on its Emergency Use Listing (EUL). So far only the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine received the validation at the end of last year, but more announcements could be made as soon as in the next few weeks, according to Harris. Among those are candidates coming from Sinopharm and Sinovac, two Chinese vaccine developers.

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The COVAX program was set up by the WHO with GAVI, the vaccine alliance, to help distribute vaccines to more countries. China joined COVAX last year.

Out of the 42 countries that are rolling out COVID-19 vaccines, 36 are high-income countries and six middle-income countries. “So there’s a clear problem that low- and most middle-income countries are not receiving the vaccine yet,” said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus earlier this month.

“We are not happy that it’s not happening quickly enough,” said Harris, “but we determined to make it happen.”

World Insight with Tian Wei is an international platform for debate and intelligent discussion. It is the meeting point of both the highly influential and rising voices, facilitated by host Tian Wei. It provides nutrition to form your own thoughts and ideas through a 45-minute live debate and interviews.

Schedule: Monday-Saturday

Time (GMT): 1415, 2015

(If you want to contribute and have specific expertise, please contact us at opinions@cgtn.com.)

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