Leaving WHO could leave US without vital flu vaccine information

The White House decision to withdraw from the World Health Organization may leave the U.S. without crucial information used to determine influenza vaccines for the coming season, according to STAT News.

Twice a year, the WHO's flu strain selection group meets to discuss which variant of the flu virus should be used in vaccines in the upcoming flu season. Though the process is not flawless because the dominant flu strain in a particular season is very hard to predict, it is a key process in making sure the flu vaccine is updated with the best information available at that moment.

The group includes experts from 10 institutions from around the world, and three of the seats are reserved for U.S. institutions. But President Donald Trump's announcement at the end of May that the U.S. will end its relationship with the WHO due to its response to the COVID-19 pandemic has thrown the participation of U.S. experts in the flu strain selection process into question. It is not clear whether U.S. experts would try to participate in the process and whether they could.

Nancy Cox, a retired CDC official who previously led the agency's influenza division for 22 years, told STAT that without that vital information from other countries about flu virus variants, the U.S. will be "flying blind."

One reason is that new flu strains usually emerge in Asia, not in the Americas, she said.

In addition, experts in the group share information on other animal flu viruses that could result in potential future pandemics, such as avian and swine flu.

Read the full report here.

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