* World Health Organization
Topics: Health, Safety
04 Dec 1994
From: "DG Ervan Darnell"
The first piece on tonight's "60 Minutes" was about how the W.H.O. refused
to used a cholera vaccine for an outbreak of cholera in Peru. The U.S.
military had a large surplus from the Gulf War that it had not used. It
offered to give it to Peru (that is to the W.H.O. to distribute).
The W.H.O. refused on the grounds that it was not effective. This is a
vaccine approved by the ultra-paranoid FDA nonetheless. The interviewer
asked a representative from the W.H.O. why not (quotes paraphrased from memory):
L.S. : Is this vaccine safe?
W.H.O. : Yes
L.S. : Then why didn't you use it?
W.H.O. : We were not sure it was effective.
L.S. : But the U.S. military planned to use it as an effective drug.
W.H.O. : We have not seen sufficient evidence.
What did the W.H.O do instead? Well, nothing. That it might not work was
sufficient reason to let people die instead (sounds like the FDA so far).
It lobbied the Peruvian government to install better sanitation, which they
did not do. The theory was floated that the W.H.O. did not want to use the
vaccine because it would undercut their political turf and efforts to get
more subsidies for the slums.
That may sound paranoid, but the scenario was repeated in Rwanda this year.
By this time, the vaccine had been tested in more independent trials and
found to be effective. The interview went like this:
L.S. : Why wasn't the vaccine used in Rwanda?
W.H.O. : We didn't think it would be appropriate.
L.S. : But the Swedes and the Americans tested it and found it to be
W.H.O. : Yes, it's effective.
L.S. : Why wasn't it used?
W.H.O. : Because we didn't have the money for it.
L.S. : But it's free.
W.H.O. : We'd still have to pay to deliver it.
L.S. : Other people have offered to deliver it.
W.H.O. : There isn't enough water for it.
[the vaccine is oral and requires only half a cup of water]
How would we decide who to give it to? There is not enough for
The latter few answers are clearly evasive. The W.H.O. representative had
just said they were focusing their cholera efforts on rehydrating people who
already were sick. I'm not sure what percentage were getting sick, but
rehydrating is more far more water intensive than half a cup to take the
vaccine. The last answer is perfectly absurd too. They face this problem
with every kind of aid. If they really believed this, the W.H.O. would
simply dissolve itself.
I think they said 10K people died of cholera in the Rwandan refuge camps. I
forget what percent they [the U.S. military] said they thought they could
inoculate, but 80% comes to mind. Whatever it is, several thousand people
died because of W.H.O. bureaucratic wheel turning. This is the U.N. agency
dedicated to saving people's health, instead it is obstructing help from
Such lies lend credence to the initial accusation that the W.H.O. is more
interested in protecting its bureaucratic turf than saving people. This
should not be a surprise. Government bureaucracies are not interested in
performing the function for which they are created. There is no benefit in
that. There is no market share to gain. There is no competition to
demonstrate error. Instead, they are interested in aggrandizing their own
power. It does not matter how good the intentions of the people who setup
the organization, nor how noble its purpose, the nature of beast is still
The best that can be said for the W.H.O. is that, instead, they really were
acting conscientiously in making a conscious calculus of lives decision to
let people die in order to bludgeon the Peruvian government into more
subsidies. They failed. Four years later nothing has changed. Whatever
little sense that makes as policy, I'll leave without comment. But, It does
speak volumes about their mindset. They are afraid of giving individuals
the power to control their own lives and take their own vaccines. Instead
they see central planning as the answer (coming from the U.N. what does one
expect?). They want to impose more socialism on Peru, a country which is
already destroyed and has cholera infested slums precisely because it is too
socialist to begin with.
Ironically enough, the last piece on tonight's episode was about David
Kessler, FDA chairman. He was quite proud of the fact that he thinks he has
made us all safer by keeping lots of medicines off the shelf and regulating
25% of everything we consume (his estimate). He's quite scary; he has made
the FDA an agency without any clearly delimited authority or rules running
around finding companies guilty of breaking quite arbitrary FDA regulations
(we're talking everything from "fresh" on O.J. labels, to type fonts on bean
cans, to televsion sets, not just 'dangerous' drugs). The piece started out
by saying 'if you are tired of do nothing bureaucrats just protecting their
retirement, you should meet David Kessler'. I prefer the do nothing types.
They merely steal my money. They don't use it to actively make my life worse.
He remarked that everything the FDA regulates plus all homicides, suicides,
and accidental fatalities don't even begin to compare with deaths from
smoking. He, of course, wants to regulate smoking too (actually he wants
authority over tobacco so he can engage in censorship). I take the
contrapositive as the correct answer, abolish the FDA as irrelevant in the
face of the risks we freely accept being much larger than anything it's
On a final note, Kessler remarked (and thought it was a good idea
apparently) that the tobacco company executives who testified before
congress that cigarettes are not addictive are now being investigated for
perjury! What a deal, 'come tell us what we want to hear and we will outlaw
your company or hold your own opinions and we will jail you for perjury.'
Since any sensible notion of justice is lost here, why don't we just give
Kessler 001, a shotgun, and let him execute everyone he doesn't like. It
would save some money anyway.