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Scientist @fredhutch, studying viruses, evolution and immunity. Collection of #COVID19 threads here: https://bedford.io/misc/twitter/

Jun 2, 2020 4:19 AM
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Slightly belated, but a response to the US cutting ties with the @WHO and a bit on my relationship with the organization. 1/8 https://www.statnews.com/2020/05/29/trump-us-terminate-who-relationship/

I was horrified on Jan 23 when the WHO failed to declare a public health emergency of international concern https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/23-01-2020-statement-on-the-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov) and I was amazed that it took until March 11 to declare COVID-19 a pandemic https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/11/who-declares-the-coronavirus-outbreak-a-pandemic/. 2/8

That said, the WHO did declare a PHEIC a week later on Jan 30 https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/30-01-2020-statement-on-the-second-meeting-of-the-international-health-regulations-(2005)-emergency-committee-regarding-the-outbreak-of-novel-coronavirus-(2019-ncov). In general the WHO has been slow and bureaucratic, but incredibly necessary. 3/8

My main interaction with the WHO has been through the Global Influenza Surveillance and Response System (GISRS) https://www.who.int/influenza/gisrs_laboratory/en/. This is what the world relies on to pick the strains that go into the seasonal influenza vaccine. 4/8

The GISRS network is an amazing public health achievement. There are 144 labs in 114 countries that collect and diagnose influenza specimens throughout the year and ship these specimens to collaborating centers where they are sequenced and experimentally characterized. 5/8

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This network sequenced and shared over 28,000 viruses via @GISAID in 2019 and allows us at @nextstrain to track viral evolution and forecast emerging strains at http://nextstrain.org/flu. 6/8

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Without the GISRS network, the world’s seasonal influenza vaccine would be significantly worse and I don’t see how one would organize a global network like this one outside of the WHO. 7/8

The US CDC plays a central role in the GISRS network. How is this work supposed to continue? I’m also concerned that SARS-CoV-2 will evolve antigenically over the coming years and we’ll need a process to update its vaccine. How are we supposed to do this without the WHO? 8/8