The claim: President Biden is giving the World Health Organization control over US health care and national sovereignty
The World Health Organization’s 75th World Health Assembly began May 22 with officials coming together in Switzerland to discuss the COVID-19 pandemic and the WHO’s role in international outbreaks.
But some online claim something more nefarious is afoot.
“TERRIFYING. The Biden administration is setting the stage to hand ultimate control of America’s health care system and US national sovereignty over to the World Health Organization,” reads a Facebook post shared May 12.
The post claims that the assembly will be voting on proposed amendments the Biden administration sent in January that would allow the organization “to declare an ‘international health emergency,’ nullifying the powers of nation states.”
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But the claim is false.
The amendments referred to in the Facebook post are intended to strengthen a country’s reporting measures on public health events, experts told USA TODAY. They would not grant the WHO any authority in the US
USA TODAY reached out to the social media users who shared the claim for comment.
Amendments will not give WHO authority in the US
The Biden administration drafted amendments in January to the International Health Regulations, a legally binding agreement between 196 countries to detect and report public health events, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
This agreement does not allow the WHO to dictate national health care policy or create binding law in the US or any nation, according to Lawrence Gostindirector of Georgetown University’s WHO Collaborating Center on National and Global Health Law.
The proposed amendments to the agreement will not change that.
The amendments will essentially modify the procedures and speed up the process by which countries report health events, Thomas Bollyky, director of the Global Health Program at the Council on Foreign Relations, a nonpartisan think tank, told USA TODAY. It will not give the WHO authority in any country.
For instance, countries could refuse to “cooperate with WHO expert teams” in the past, according to the Associated Press. The amendments would “seek to have all signatories agree not to block such actions.”
The amendments do not list legal consequences for countries that do not comply, the AP reported. The measures are simply intended to strengthen the WHO’s declaration and response to an international health emergency and allow other countries to better respond within their own borders, Bollyky said.
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The idea that the Biden administration alone can give the WHO authority over health care or national sovereignty is off the mark, Brian Abramsonadjunct professor of vaccine law at the Florida International University College of Law, told USA TODAY.
Biden does not have the power to make any aspect of US governance subservient to an international organization except through a treaty ratified by a two-thirds vote in the Senate, Bollyky said.
Control of the health care system is even more farfetched. Health care in the US is delivered through additional array of corporate and governmental entities not susceptible to governance by any one organization, according to Abramson.
USA TODAY previously debunked a claim that WHO vaccination guidelines on parental consent were enforceable in the US
Our rating: False
Based on our research, we rate FALSE the claim that Biden is giving the WHO control over US health care and national sovereignty. The amendments proposed by the Biden administration are intended to strengthen the WHO’s response to international health emergencies. It will not give the WHO any authority in the US
Our fact-check sources:
- Lawrence GostinMay 19, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Teneille Brown, May 19, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- World Health Organization, accessed May 19, Seventy-fifth World Health Assembly
- Associated Press, May 18, WHO health regulations do not infringe on US decision-making
- USA TODAY, Nov. 29, 2021, Fact check: Claim is missing context on WHO’s parental consent guidelines for vaccinating children
- World Health Organization, April 12, Strengthening WHO preparedness for and response to health emergencies
- USA TODAY, Jan. 22, 2021, Biden administration renewed support for World Health Organization is ‘good news for America and the world,’ scientists say
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, April 26, International Health Regulations (IHR)
- World Health Organization, April 28, SEVENTY-FIFTH WORLD HEALTH ASSEMBLY
- Brian AbramsonMay 19, Email exchange with USA TODAY
- Thomas BollykyMay 23, Phone interview with USA TODAY
- AFP, May 24, US has not proposed giving WHO control of health care
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