The non-science of WHO’s weekly Covid reports

The WHO's Weekly Epidemiological Updates (WEU) during the Covid event were touted as "comprehensive and authoritative analysis" on the global situation. What did they really show?

WEU, for those that are unaware, is an acronym for “Weekly Epidemiological Update.” It was the title that the World Health Organization (WHO) gave to their Covid reports. The WHO started generating these weekly reports on 17 August 2020 after giving up on their idea of daily reports. A full 158 WEU reports were produced before zeal for the project petered out. Recently an article was published in the BMJ which was designed to provide “an in-depth analysis” of the “process, from data collection to publication, focusing on the scope, technical details, main features, underlying methods, impact and limitations” [1].  That article has 52 names in its list of authors, 51 of whom were affiliated with the WHO. The remaining co-author was from Johns Hopkins University (JHU).

The article begins with a “Summary Box” that contains five bullet points, each a conclusion based on their analysis of the WEU reports. Since we respectfully disagree with all five points, we thought it appropriate to write a formal response.

…the WHO did not have access to case or death data, let alone hospitalisation or ICU admission data.

 Bullet 1:

COVID-19 has posed an unprecedented global health crisis, demanding timely, reliable information on the pandemic’s progression to inform the public and guide decision-making.

They expand on this in the body of the article by saying: “The COVID-19 pandemic has posed an unprecedented global health crisis, with more than 770 million confirmed cases and over 6.9 million confirmed deaths being reported globally to WHO from 1 January 2020 to 1 September 2023.”

While we certainly do not begrudge the WHO for deciding to keep tabs on a disease that potentially claimed 6.9 million lives over the space of 44 months, we take exception to calling it an “unprecedented global health crisis.” The word unprecedented means “never having happened or existed in the past” [2]. We are at a complete loss to see how Covid was a global health crisis, let alone an unprecedented one [3]. To be thorough, we demonstrate that there was nothing unprecedented about Covid by pointing out a few things that happen during every normal 44 month period:

  • 89 billion cases of respiratory infections [4]
  • 2.5 billion people are infected with the norovirus [5]
  • 264 million people die of old age [6]
  • 37 million people die of cancer [7], and
  • 5 million people die in a car accident [8]

Therefore, even taking their numbers at face value, the only thing that was unprecedented about Covid was the response to it. Never before in the history of humanity was nearly the whole world locked down in a vain attempt to arrest the spread of a disease. The “global crisis” of the past four years was not a respiratory disease but a bureaucratic disorder. The crisis was man-made, inflicted on humanity by governments and public health officials that chose to lock people in their own homes, prohibit them from earning a living, close churches, mask children for hours a day, ban weddings and funerals, isolate children from their dying parents, ticket people for walking in a park, and then, finally, to coerce the masses to have an untested pharmaceutical product injected into their arms. Every one of these decisions was unprecedented and nearly global in extent. These responses destroyed healthy businesses, killed poor children, increased stress, weakened immune systems, drove many to the brink of insanity, and in general caused more havoc and death than Covid ever would have. Excess deaths in most countries around the world during the past four years prove this terrifying reality [6].

The fact that the authors never mention any of this, but instead call Covid the unprecedented global health crisis is an embarrassment to the medical professional. The glaring omission makes the WHO a serious contender for itself becoming an unprecedented global problem. If the WHO was truly concerned about public health, then instead of producing weekly updates tracking Covid they should have been producing weekly updates tracking the unprecedented human carnage caused by lockdowns and vaccines [9].

Bullet 2:

The WHO’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update (WEU) provided regular, comprehensive and authoritative analyses of the global COVID-19 situation.

Actually, the WEU reports were neither comprehensive nor authoritative. For example, in Figure 1 of their article they provide six graphs, each showing Covid cases and deaths in a different region of the world: Europe, Americas, Mediterranean, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific. Of significance is that in Europe and the Americas there is an almost complete disconnect between cases and deaths, whereas in the other four regions deaths rise and fall in sync with cases. As it is impossible for Covid to have changed its lethality simply by crossing a border to a new country, the graphs are proof that the data was anything but “comprehensive.” We have previously described at length the phenomenon of how the Covid data varies significantly by country [10, 11]. The WHO reports, however, are strangely silent on this glaring trend. How then can they be called “authoritative analyses”?

Bullet 3:

The production of the WEU included several steps, which were standardised, regularly refined and automated when possible, to ensure consistency and accuracy.

The steps taken by the WHO to generate each WEU may have ensured consistency, but it is certain that the results were not accurate. For instance and by their own testimony, they admit to enormous gaps in their data:

  • “During this period, reporting completeness varied significantly.”
  • “The number of countries reporting  data on new  hospitalisations ranged from 41% to 12%.”
  • “The number of countries reporting  data on ICU admissions ranged from 17% to 4%.”
  • “11% [of countries] reported weekly new hospitalisation data at least 80% of the expected times.”
  • “9% [of countries] did the same for new ICU admission data.”

Furthermore, in the last published WEU it says:

“Please note that the absence of reported data from other countries to the WHO does not imply that there are no COVID-19-related hospitalizations in those countries. The presented hospitalization data are preliminary and might change as new data become available. Furthermore, hospitalization data are subject to reporting delays. These data also likely include both hospitalizations with incidental cases of SARS-CoV-2 infection and those due to COVID-19 disease.” [12]

Therefore, not only do they admit to a lack of data and to delays in reporting, but also to the fact that the data they did receive may or may not be indicative of Covid at all. 

Naturally, this lack of data is entirely expected, for it typically takes many months or years even for technologically advanced countries like Canada and the US to produce good data [13]. What is unexpected, however, is that despite such glaring holes in the data, the WHO should still claim their reports were accurate. Precise, maybe, but certainly not accurate.

If a majority of countries were not reporting any data, how could the WHO generate anything even remotely useful? Indeed, if only 9% of countries reported at least 80% of the time, how can it possibly be said the WEU reports were accurate? It cannot. They weren’t.

Furthermore, although it is not said expressly, there is an important reason why the above quotations discuss “hospitalizations and ICU admissions” rather than “cases and deaths.” The reason is that the WHO used different sources for each. Hospitalization and ICU data were obtained from health authorities, but case and death statistics were extracted from “data repositories” (See Figure 5 in [1]). In other words, despite the fact that only 9% of countries reported their data to the WHO, the WEU could still report cases and deaths in 100% of countries because the data came from a different source. The fact that the WHO did not even claim to be getting its case and death data directly from each country testifies that countries around the world were unable to produce this information. 

If countries were unable to generate case and death data, where did the data repositories get this information from? The short and blunt answer is that they made it up.

Indeed, no information is provided in their article about which repositories were used. However, the obvious and primary data repository would have been the one maintained by Johns Hopkins University (recall that one author of this WEU analysis was from JHU). Based on our recent study of the JHU dashboard [13], all the evidence strongly suggests that case and death numbers in their data repository were primarily generated by computer simulations rather than observed events. This WEU analysis confirms our conclusion, for the very fact that the WHO did not (and could not) obtain case and death data directly from each country, and that only 9% to 11% of countries could report on hospitalizations or ICU admissions, means that factual data was positively unavailable. 

Therefore, the WHO did not have access to case or death data, let alone hospitalisation or ICU admission data. It is remarkable that the authors of this WEU analysis would neglect to discuss this critical aspect of their data. It is disturbing that despite these glaring problems and holes they insist that their data was accurate.

Bullet 4:

Addressing the persisting challenges inherent to the global surveillance of COVID-19, many of which were exemplified by the WEU, will require sustained international collaboration, commitment and investment.

What this fourth bullet means is that the WHO thinks that governments around the world need to invest more money and time into their continued surveillance of Covid. In the body of the article this is explained as follows: 

It is critical that countries maintain core SARS- CoV- 2 surveillance capacities and activities to inform ongoing public health measures and ensure that  future surges of COVID- 19 are rapidly detected, allowing for swift action to prevent larger outbreaks.”

There are multiple problems with this statement. In the first place, the “health measures” that were already tried (lockdowns, masks, vaccines), besides causing enormous economic damage, mental stress, and deaths, failed to change the course of Covid. The failure of lockdowns has been proven by hundreds of different researchers [9]. And concerning the Covid shots, the authors themselves admit that the vaccine effectiveness (VE) waned over time: “For both Delta and Omicron… VE for individual vaccines [declined] over time for severe disease, symptomatic disease and infection.” What they fail to admit, however, is that the initial high VE and also the subsequent decline were nothing more or less than a mathematical result of the way vaccinated individuals were classed as unvaccinated for a period of time [14]. In plain English, the shots were a colossal failure at preventing Covid [15]. Moreover, the Covid shots have caused an unprecedented number of severe adverse events, including at least one million deaths [16]. If the “swift action” that was taken in the past failed to arrest Covid, what then is proposed to stop future outbreaks?

In the second place, because data takes so long to collect it is functionally impossible to “rapidly detect” surges of any particular respiratory ailment. This is especially true for a disease like Covid whose symptoms are indistinguishable from several other respiratory illnesses [17]. Nor will it help to rely on genomic sequencing to resolve the conundrum. The authors themselves prove this, affirming that:

Timely  sharing of genomic sequencing data from countries was also challenging due to the median lag between the collection and submission of SARS- CoV- 2 sequences to GISAID varying significantly across countries, ranging from approximately 2 weeks to over 9 months.”

If it takes several months for genomic sequences to be uploaded, by the time surveillance has determined anything of value, the surge, if there ever was one, will be long past.

Bullet 5:

The methodology and lessons learnt from the experience of the WEU offer a blueprint for the development of information products that can support the response to future major health emergencies.

Since there wasn’t a major health emergency in the first place, it is doubtful if the WEU experience can support any future response.

We respectfully submit that the WEU experience should have taught the WHO to be more cautious about declaring a pandemic, because in doing so millions of lives were ruined and lost without cause [18, 9]. It should also have taught the WHO that rapid global data of a specific disease is impossible to collect, even in a high tech world. And it should have informed the WHO that transparent cost/benefit analyses should be done before sweeping measures are recommended on an unsuspecting world. Unfortunately these important lessons seem to have escaped the authors. 

The question is why?


References

  1. Miglietta A Ikejezie J, et al, “Informing the pandemic response: the role of the WHO’s COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update.” BMJ Glob Health. 2024 Apr 4;9(4):e014466. doi: 10.1136/bmjgh-2023-014466. PMID: 38580376.
  2. Anonymous, “Unprecedented,” 2024, Cambridge, https://dictionary.cambridge.org/dictionary/english/unprecedented
  3. Verduyn, Thomas, et al, “Was SARS-CoV-2 entirely novel or particularly deadly?” 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/was-sars-cov-2-entirely-novel-or-particularly-deadly/
  4. DerSarkissian, Carol, “Common Cold,” 2024, https://www.webmd.com/cold-and-flu/common_cold_overview
  5. Lucero Y, Matson DO, Ashkenazi S, George S, O’Ryan M. “Norovirus: Facts and Reflections from Past, Present, and Future.” Viruses. 2021 Nov 30;13(12):2399. doi: 10.3390/v13122399. PMID: 34960668; PMCID: PMC8707792.
  6. Anonymous, “Death rate, crude (per 1,000 people),” 2024, WorldBank, https://data.worldbank.org/indicator/SP.DYN.CDRT.IN?end=2021&start=2021&view=bar
  7. Anonymous, “Cancer,” 2024, OWID, https://ourworldindata.org/cancer
  8. Anonymous, “Global status report on road safety 2018,” 2019, WHO, https://www.who.int/publications/i/item/9789241565684
  9. Verduyn, Thomas, et al, “Did lockdowns save the world from Covid doom?” 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/did-lockdowns-save-the-world-from-covid-doom/
  10. Verduyn, Thomas et al, “Covid mortality patterns in the USA,” Oct 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/covid-mortality-patterns-in-the-usa/
  11. Verduyn, Thomas, et al, “Worldwide Covid Mortality Patterns,” Oct 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/worldwide-covid-mortality-patterns/
  12. Anonymous, “COVID-19 Weekly Epidemiological Update Edition 158,” 1 September 2023, WHO, https://www.who.int/publications/m/item/weekly-epidemiological-update-on-covid-19—1-september-2023
  13. Verduyn, Thomas, “The Dashboard that ruled the world,” 2024, Pandata, https://pandata.org/the-dashboard-that-ruled-the-world/
  14. Neil, Martin, et al, “The extent and impact of vaccine status miscategorisation on covid-19 vaccine efficacy studies,” 2024, medRxiv, https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2024.03.09.24304015v1.full
  15. Verduyn, Thomas, “How many lives were actually saved by the Covid-19 vaccines?” May 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/how-many-lives-were-actually-saved-by-the-covid-19-vaccines/
  16. Verduyn, Thomas, “Did side effects from the Covid shots cause any excess mortality?” 2023, Pandata, https://pandata.org/did-side-effects-from-the-covid-shots-cause-any-excess-mortality/
  17. Anonymous, “Similarities and Differences between Flu and COVID-19”, 2024, CDC, https://www.cdc.gov/flu/symptoms/flu-vs-covid19.htm
  18. Rancourt, Denis, “Nature of the COVID-era public health disaster in the USA, from all-cause mortality and socio-geo-economic and climatic data,” 2021, Research Gate, https://www.researchgate.net/publication/355574895_Nature_of_the_COVID-era_public_health_disaster_in_the_USA_from_all-cause_mortality_and_socio-geo-economic_and_climatic_data
Author

Thomas Verduyn has an honors B.A.Sc in aerospace engineering. He has a wide range of work experiences including computer consulting, construction, transportation, accounting, and entrepreneurship. He is an avid reader of many different fields. He has published multiple books, is keenly interested in health, and is passionate about knowing God.

Publisher’s note: The opinions and findings expressed in articles, reports and interviews on this website are not necessarily the opinions of PANDA, its directors or associates.

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