Anders Tegnell: Mr. No-mask is a No-show at WHO

There is a fair amount of confusion—and stonewalling—around the appointment of highly controversial Swedish epidemiologist Anders Tegnell to the WHO, which we reported on last week. Contrary to the Swedish Public Health Agency announcement that Anders Tegnell would join the WHO as a vaccine expert on March 14, it appears the appointment is not a done deal. “It is an internal matter, send us your questions by email,” WHO’s Margaret Sullivan told us on Tuesday as we attempted to clarify the situation. But several emails sent by The G|O have remained unanswered. “We have received an offer from Sweden that is still under discussion,” WHO spokesperson Fadela Chaid told Svenska Dagbladet (Sweden’s paper of record) yesterday.

Might Sweden have tried to force WHO’s hand by presenting it with a “fait accompli?” One can only speculate. But the Swedish answer is altogether one of documented inconsistency. The Swedish Mission here referred us specifically to the head of the International Secretariat at the Ministry for Social Affairs. In an email, they told The G|O that the Swedish Government had “no formal role in the process,” and advised us to contact the Public Health Agency. But, in contradiction with the Ministry’s statement, the Agency told Svenska Dagbladet that it had moved ahead “after dialogue with the Government Office.”

It is common practice for WHO to hire experts and consultants for specific missions under arrangements usually discussed between the organization and its member states. But why would Sweden recommend the 65-year-old Tegnell, knowing his appointment was bound to create controversy? Could it be to soften the blow of his stepping down as Sweden’s top epidemiologist after his policy during the early phase of the pandemic was officially rebuked by an independent panel of experts? At time of going to press, The G|O has received no answer from Stockholm.