Anyone who follows public health issues in Venezuela probably knows that publication of the Boletines Epidemiológicos has been subject to serious delays or suppression since 2014 under the administration of Nicolás Maduro. The Boletines for 2014, 2015 and 2016 are finally available after significant delays. By the way, the Boletín Epidemiológico in Venezuela is analogous to the Mortality and Morbidity Weekly Report (MMWR) in the United States.
I have known about the issues with Venezuelan health reporting for several years, and have associated the suppression of epidemiological information with the political motives of the Chavistas.
A year or two ago, I was optimistic that maybe US and European and other Latin American public health experts would be able to help Venezuela deal with its significant public health problems, that include infant mortality, malaria, measles, and diphtheria.
That was before COVID-19…
Regarding COVID, Venezuela has fared quite a bit better than the United States, which has the worst situation in the world, followed by India and Brazil. Although Nicolás Maduro has been terrible regarding malaria, at least he has been seen wearing a mask against COVID.
What’s more, there is an emerging scandal over attempts at suppression of epidemiological information in the United States. This time, the political motives are those of conservative Republicans, rather than Chavistas.
Articles in Scientific American and in POLITICO detail the actions of HHS assistant secretary for public affairs Michael Caputo and his underling Paul Alexander in attempting to alter or suppress COVID reporting in the MMWR. Alexander no longer works at the agency, and Caputo has taken a leave of absence.
The articles detail how these politically-motivated actions undermine trust of North Americans toward their own public health infrastructure.
Not only that, but these attempts to suppress epidemiological data and information also undermine the trust of people in other countries regarding the once-excellent public health system in the United States. They undermine the future ability of the United States to help other countries with public health issues. The withdrawal of the United States from WHO only serves to further undermine the US’s reputation in public health. Even if another Administration takes over in January and rejoins WHO, as Biden has promised to do, the trust factor is slow to be repaired.