The World Health Organisation's leading flu expert will join a Council of Europe hearing next week to scrutinise if they had overreacted to the swine flu pandemic, said a WHO spokesman Friday.
"There will be a WHO delegation going to Strasbourg to this open hearing on Tuesday," said spokesman Gregory Haertl, adding that it would be led by Keiji Fukuda, WHO Special Adviser on Pandemic Influenza.
AdvertisementThe France-based Council of Europe announced on its website Thursday that the hearing entitled "The handling of the H1N1 pandemic: more transparency needed?" would be held in public.
The Health Family and Social affairs commission of the Council's assembly invited the WHO and pharmaceutical firms after a political storm erupted over the alarm caused by the declaration of a pandemic with A(H1N1) influenza.
Council of Europe parliamentarian Wolfgang Wodarg has accused national and international authorities of declaring a "false pandemic", claiming pressure from pharmaceutical firms anxious to profit from vaccine and drug sales.
The WHO responded a week ago by announcing a likely independent review of its response to swine flu, but only once the pandemic is over.
Haertl defended the UN health agency's response after the emergence of the new flu virus with fast spreading illness, and deaths, in the United States and Mexico in April 2008.
"The question is not really whether we had contact with the industry but whether we had any undue influence exerted upon us by commercial interests -- and the answer is no," he told journalists on Friday.
He insisted that the WHO had maintained that the symptoms of the disease were largely mild in a "sober and balanced" assessment of the worldwide spread of swine flu into more than 200 countries.
French Health Minister Roselyne Bachelot on Friday described talks with drug companies to cancel orders for millions of swine flu vaccines as "tough".
France spent 869 million euros (1.25 billion dollars) on 94 million vaccines for the A(H1N1) virus, but like some other European countries it has witnessed less demand than expected.