Croatian MEP makes misleading statements about the WHO and vaccines during a meeting in the EU parliament

By: Nikolaj Kristensen
August 3 2023

Share Article: facebook logo twitter logo linkedin logo
Croatian MEP makes misleading statements about the WHO and vaccines during a meeting in the EU parliament


The Verdict False

The WHO does not demand that countries surrender authority in declaring pandemics, and vaccines must document effectiveness before being approved.

Claim ID b7bec7e9


In a video circulating on TikTok, a Croatian member of the European Parliament (MEP), Mislav Kolakušić, is heard saying that the World Health Organization (WHO) is demanding countries surrender their authority to declare pandemics and that almost none of the vaccines in use today can be classified as vaccines as they have no proven effectiveness. 

On both accounts, however, Kolakušić gets it wrong. Firstly, the WHO does not declare pandemics, but public health emergencies of international concern (PHEIC). Work within the organization on a new pandemic accord will not result in member countries surrendering sovereignty, according to WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Secondly, with very few exceptions, vaccines are subjected to large trials and rigorous documentation of effectiveness before being approved and marketed.

Does the WHO pandemic treaty force countries to surrender their sovereignty?

On July 4, 2023, a meeting – titled Trust and Freedom, and intended to discuss European public health and the WHO – was held between citizens, NGOs, and a number of MEPs in the European Parliament building in Brussels. Kolakušić started off by saying he was pleased to have the opportunity to discuss the problems with the World Health Organization.

“The World Health Organization is demanding that all countries surrender authority to declare pandemics and to procure so-called vaccines into their hands,” said the MEP, likely referring to the much-discussed work within the WHO on a “pandemic accord” and amendments to its International Health Regulations (IHR). 

“Unfortunately,” Kolakušić continued, “today there are very few products that we can truly call vaccines. Most of them are pharmaceutical products without any proven effectiveness that can be classified as vaccines.”

When asked about the matter, a spokesperson for the WHO told Logically Facts that the Director-General of the WHO, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has clearly stated that “Countries will continue to make their own decisions; they have not, and will not, give WHO their sovereignty. The pandemic accord won’t change that.”

Ronald Labonté, professor emeritus in epidemiology and public health at the University of Ottawa, told Logically Facts that countries don’t surrender authority to the WHO, but that through negotiations they agree to certain accountability measures that follow a declaration of a PHEIC.

Technically, says the WHO spokesperson, the organization cannot declare a pandemic, but can instead declare a “public health emergency of international concern,” as it did with COVID-19, based on an independent expert committee’s assessment of a number of criteria.

Lars Thorup Larsen, associate professor of political science with expertise in health politics at the University of Aarhus, explains to Logically Facts that following the COVID-19 pandemic there have been discussions as to whether the WHO should have greater authority or be able to impose greater consequences. But, since the WHO – like every other U.N. agency – is an intergovernmental organization, it does not have the power to force anything on the member states. 

Larsen points out that even if the WHO could declare pandemics, it wouldn’t constitute a signing over of authority since every country would still be able to declare whatever it wanted.

Have vaccines been proven effective? 

Regarding Kolakušić’s vaccine claims, vaccines can only be used in the EU if approved by the European Medicines Agency (EMA), and this can only happen through clinical trials where data is collected and analyzed, explains Jens Lundgren, MD and professor in infectious diseases at the University of Copenhagen. “The documentation needed for EMA to approve the use of a vaccine has to be of such a quality that the benefits of the vaccine offset and exceed the possible side-effects,” Lundgren told Logically Facts.

Ali Salanti, a professor in immunology and microbiology at the University of Copenhagen, gives two recent examples. Firstly, the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccine was only approved after it had shown a rate of 95 percent effectiveness in a large clinical study of approximately 50,000 people. A Bavarian Nordic RSV vaccine, on the other hand, was not approved as a study of more than 20,000 people showed “only” 43 percent protection against severe illness, a rate lower than the predefined threshold. This shows that the approval of vaccines is directly tied up with their proven effectiveness, explains Salanti.

A rare exception is the HPV vaccine against cervical cancer. The vaccine was approved for its effectiveness against viral infection of the cervix, and not directly for its capacity to prevent cancer, Salanti explained. It was later proven that by preventing cervical HPV virus infection, this can prevent cervical cancer. 

Kolakušić did not respond to Logically Facts’ request for comment.  

The Verdict

A TikTok video shows Croatian MEP Mislav Kolakušić making misleading claims during a meeting in the European Parliament building in Brussels. Contrary to the MEP’s claims, the WHO does not demand countries surrender authority in declaring pandemics, and with rare exceptions, all vaccines must pass large trials and document effectiveness before being approved and marketed. Therefore, we have marked these claims as false.

Read this fact-check in:

English , Dansk

Would you like to submit a claim to fact-check or contact our editorial team?

Global Fact-Checks Completed

We rely on information to make meaningful decisions that affect our lives, but the nature of the internet means that misinformation reaches more people faster than ever before