Bruce Aylward is a Canadian physician-epidemiologist. He was co-lead of the WHO-China Joint Mission on COVID-19, and served as one of the Assistant Directors-General of World Health Organization.
Aylward is Canadian by nationality and a physician-epidemiologist by training. He did his medical training at Memorial University of Newfoundland, the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine and the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.
Aylward joined the World Health Organization in 1992 and worked for eight years in immunization, communicable disease control and polio eradication in the Middle East, Western Pacific, Europe, North Africa and Central and South East Asia.
Aylward led the Global Polio Eradication Initiative partnership from 1998 to 2004, where he oversaw the deployment of more than 6000 field personnel, developed new tools and vaccines and reduced the number of polio endemic countries to two.
Aylward rose to prominence as the Assistant Director General of the WHO Polio and Emergencies Cluster.
Aylward was appointed "Special Representative of the Director-General for the Ebola Response". He has spoken extensively on the subject, for example at TEDx, where one of his speeches had garnered over 1,000,000 views as of 2020.
Aylward led the World Health Organization's team during the 2019-20 coronavirus pandemic in China. He opined that the key to reduction of transmission of the disease is "isolation, contact tracing and testing".
On March 28, 2020 during the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, Aylward was interviewed in The Pulse, a current affairs programme from Radio Television Hong Kong (RTHK). The interviewer asked about status of Taiwan in the WHO and inquired as to whether it might be re-admitted to the WHO after Taiwan accused China of denying it entry. Aylward ignored the question, then when asked if he was still on the line, claimed that he didn't hear the question. The interviewer offered, "Okay, let me repeat the question, so –," but Aylward interrupted, "No, that's okay. Let's move to another one then". The interviewer repeated the question, but Aylward appeared to terminate the call. When called back, Aylward was asked, "I just want to see if you can comment a bit on how Taiwan has done so far," and he answered, "We have already talked about China". He then formally ended the interview.
Aylward's interview has been described as emblematic of China's influence over international organizations by Gordon G. Chang. Aylward's biography was removed from the WHO's leadership webpage directly following the interview. Taiwan's foreign minister Joseph Wu commented about the interview in a tweet saying the WHO "should set politics aside in dealing with a pandemic" and pointed to the positive coverage about Taiwan's response to the pandemic in global media—"These reports do not mistake us as part of China."
Taiwan’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Joanne Ou said China was 'vile' and 'evil' for blocking Taipei’s access to the World Health Organization (WHO) amid the new coronavirus outbreak.