The world — and the U.S. — needs the WHO to keep disease at bay. Without the WHO, the world would experience a surge in polio cases. The Global Polio Eradication Initiative is embedded in WHO and has decreased the number of wild poliovirus cases by 99.9% since 1988, from an estimated 350,000 cases to just 176 in 2019. WHO leads surveillance, immunization, and technical support, and is able to reach remote areas in countries where polio still exists.
Moreover, the world would compromise the global infectious disease early warning system. Early detection allows countries to stop disease outbreaks at their source before they spread farther and become deadlier and more expensive to contain.
The U.S. would also lose access to influenza data that protects Americans. Since 2004, the U.S. has helped build a global network of WHO flu centers, buying lab equipment, and training scientists. The centers in more than 100 countries collect samples from sick people, isolate the viruses, and search for any new viruses that could cause an epidemic or pandemic. The CDC houses one of five WHO Collaborating Centers that collect these virus samples, while the FDA runs one of the four WHO regulatory labs that help vaccine makers determine the correct amount of antigen, which triggers the immune response, to include in vaccines.
And the WHO bolsters PEPFAR. The President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief was started by President Bush with bipartisan support in 2003. PEPFAR relies on and helps countries implement WHO’s treatment guidelines for HIV/AIDS, including using the WHO infrastructure for lab capacity, prevention of mother to child transmission, TB/HIV, and health systems strengthening.