WVU experts say Americans face risks if U.S. pulls from World Health Organization

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MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – West Virginia University health and policy experts oppose the Trump administration’s decision to pull out of the World Health Organization (WHO).

The administration recently informed the U.S. Congress and United Nations of its decision, citing what it perceived as the mismanagement of the COVID-19 pandemic. Christopher Plein, a WVU Eberly Family Professor for Outstanding Public Service, said some of the criticisms of the WHO are fair, especially now that the pandemic has exposed some of its weaknesses. However, Plein added that leaving the global organization is not the solution.

Chris Plein

The function of international coordination for public health is really really crucial. We learned this lesson a hundred years ago during the influenza pandemic, that disease can cross borders and can cross oceans with ease. We live in a globally interconnected society and we need to work together. When things fail and there are shortcomings, the path to take is to look hard at what works and what doesn’t work and to move forward from there.

Chris Plein – Eberly Family Professor for Outstanding Public Service at WVU 

Plein said there are risks that are posed by leaving the WHO, both for the American people and the globe. One risk, he said, is that because the U.S. is a major player in the world stage, an important part of helping to coordinate and communicate much-needed information and research will be lost. Plein said the U.S. helps to navigate complex issues and complex public health problems such as the pandemic.

In a WVU press release, Chris Martin, director of the WVU Global Engagement Office, said even if the U.S. is successful in finding a COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinating a large portion of its citizens that wouldn’t solve the pandemic in the country because it will return as long as it is circulating in the world. He said a vaccine would only be a brief reprieve if the U.S. cannot coordinate with others.

Chris Martin

“The withdrawal during a pandemic has created serious alarm within the global health community. If we didn’t share a planet with China, we would not be experiencing this pandemic. But we do share a planet with many other countries, and an outbreak of infectious disease in any of them places us all at risk. Regardless of how we feel about these countries, we must work with them if our response is to be effective.” 

Chris Martin -Director of the WVU Global Engagement Office

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