Experts acknowledged that the W.H.O. has made some missteps during the pandemic, but said it has largely done well given the constraints under which it operates. The agency is coordinating clinical trials of treatments, as well as efforts to manufacture and equitably distribute the vaccine.
“I think it’s an extraordinarily bad decision that will both harm global public health and harm the health of the American people,” said Dr. Ashish Jha, the director of the Harvard Global Health Institute. “It’s unclear to me how the American people benefit by not being at the table and not being able to shape those policies.”
For the Trump administration to blame the W.H.O. for not investigating the outbreak in China is “deeply disingenuous,” Dr. Jha added. “W.H.O. can’t push its way into China, any more than it can investigate why our outbreak is so bad in Arizona or why we’re botching the response as badly as we are.”
And Dr. Thomas R. Frieden, a former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, underlined the organization’s accomplishments. “Without W.H.O., the world would not have eradicated smallpox, multidrug resistant tuberculosis would have spread much more widely, and we would have much weaker systems to track influenza and other deadly infections.”
The administration’s move also drew criticism from Democratic lawmakers, including from Senator Bob Menendez of New Jersey, the top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, who wrote on Twitter that Congress had just received notification of the withdrawal. “This won’t protect American lives or interests — it leaves Americans sick & America alone,” Mr. Menendez wrote.
But Republicans on Tuesday supported the idea of leaving the organization.
“Withdrawing the United States from the World Health Organization was the right decision,” Representative James R. Comer of Kentucky, a ranking member of the House oversight committee, said on Twitter. “Until the WHO undergoes some serious reforms, it doesn’t deserve our money or our membership.”
The United States played a central role in creating the W.H.O. in 1948, and has since been one of its largest sources of financial support. The biennial budget for the W.H.O. is about $6 billion, which comes from member countries around the world. In 2019, the last year for which figures were available, the United States contributed about $553 million.