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The logo of the World Health Organization on the doors of its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP) The logo of the World Health Organization on the doors of its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)

The logo of the World Health Organization on the doors of its headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. (AP)

Jon Greenberg
By Jon Greenberg May 19, 2022

No, the US is not backing a WHO takeover of national health policies

If Your Time is short

  • The World Health Organization is revamping the international rules for responding to pandemics.

  • The U.S. proposal would press the WHO to investigate outbreaks, offer help and recommend certain actions to affected countries.

  • Any country could reject any recommendation and the worst that would happen is its position would be shared publicly, along with any information gleaned about the outbreak.

A flurry of claims on Facebook and conservative media outlets warn that the World Health Organization is on track to gain enormous powers that would override the health care policies of any individual government.

"The Biden administration is bringing amendments that would propose that all nations of the earth cede their sovereignty over national health care decisions to the WHO," said former Minnesota Republican Rep. Michele Bachmann May 9 on Steve Bannon’s War Room podcast.

One online program said the WHO would be able to impose vaccine mandates and require vaccine passports.

The World Health Organization has launched a public process to revamp a key guiding document, the International Health Regulations. Those rules define how the multilateral community will respond to a future pandemic. The effort to tweak them stems from criticism that the WHO took too long to declare a public health emergency over COVID-19 and that it deferred too much to China.

Bachmann's claim hinges on the U.S. recommendations for the overhaul of WHO regulations. So, we read them. 

In the U.S. April 12 filing, there is nothing that matches what Bachmann described.

Broadly, the American changes would require the WHO to share information faster about a newly discovered public health risk. At the first sign of an outbreak in a country, the U.S. wants the WHO to help diminish the risk elsewhere by offering manpower and other resources to the immediately affected country. If that affected country rejects the help, it has two days to explain why, then the WHO shall "immediately share" with other countries the information about the exchange, says the U.S. amendment.

Contrary to Bachmann’s assertion that the WHO would run roughshod over national sovereignty, the overall thrust of the U.S. proposed language is to add more naming and shaming techniques to the WHO’s arsenal.

Bachmann said nations would "cede their sovereignty," but the text of the Biden administration proposal includes no power to override what a country decides to do. The WHO can offer and recommend, but it can’t require.

Bachmann is currently dean of the Robertson School of Government at Regent University, a school founded by television evangelist Pat Robertson. We emailed Bachmann and did not hear back.

Our ruling

Bachmann said "the Biden administration is bringing amendments that would propose that all nations of the earth cede their sovereignty over national healthcare decisions to the WHO."

The Biden administration proposal is publicly available online. It seeks to compel the WHO to engage more assertively when a health risk emerges, and to share any information it gleans with the international community more quickly. It requires the WHO to recommend actions to the affected country, and offer expertise. The sanction for nations who reject WHO assistance is public exposure.

Nothing in the Biden administration proposal matches Bachmann’s interpretation.

We rate this claim False.

 

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No, the US is not backing a WHO takeover of national health policies

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