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WHO To Investigate Handling of Swine Flu Information, Vaccine Orders 372

Posted by timothy
from the here-little-piggy dept.
krou writes "With swine flu fading in the UK (projected winter deaths of 65,000 have been downgraded to 1,000, and new cases are decreasing) the UK government has been left with millions of unused vaccines, and (unlike its contract with Baxter) no clear break-clause to get out of its contract with GlaxoSmithKlein. Although the amount paid for vaccines has not been disclosed, it likely cost the UK government several hundred million pounds. Other governments are also in a similar position: the US ordered 251 million doses of the vaccine, and France and Germany are aiming to cut back on their orders considerably. To say that the case for the pandemic has been over-estimated appears to be an understatement. Now, the WHO has announced that it is to investigate whether or not it bowed to pressure from drugs companies to overplay the threat." (Continues, below.)
"The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly has also announced an investigation into the matter after a resolution [pdf] from Dr. Wolfgang Wodarg, Chairman of the Subcommittee on Health, was adopted. Dr. Wodarg labelled swine flu as a "false pandemic", and claims in the resolution that '"in order to promote their patented drugs and vaccines against flu, pharmaceutical companies influenced scientists and official agencies responsible for public health standards to alarm governments worldwide and make them squander tight health resources for inefficient vaccine strategies, and needlessly expose millions of healthy people to the risk of an unknown amount of side-effects of insufficiently-tested vaccines."' By some estimates, GSK was expected to net over £1 billion from vaccine sales."
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WHO To Investigate Handling of Swine Flu Information, Vaccine Orders

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  • You know, I really love Iron Maiden... but I guess the WHO gets my vote now... I didnt know they were that active in saving the world!!!

    ;-)

  • This made my day (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mrmeval (662166)

    Even if it blew a lot of government money. We were hit and hit hard by astroturfing and government fear mongering. Now that this information is becoming public this will become an annual event because government can never admit it was wrong.

    • by Carewolf (581105) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:04AM (#30776006) Homepage

      It seems more to me the journalists did their own fear-mongering. The politicians just followed the prevailing winds like always. I wish politicians would have more balls than that, but I also wish I could fly!

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Jah-Wren Ryel (80510)

        The politicians just followed the prevailing winds like always.

        So much for the idea that politicians should have leadership skills.
        More like ring-in-the-nose skills.

      • by mrmeval (662166)

        Politicians with balls went out of style in WWII. You get too much other crap as baggage with them. They kill more than plagues ever did.

        Without drastic and pre-WWII style draconian social control you can do surveillance and find an up and coming candidate to generate a vaccine for. Since we have a limited and fragile capacity for creating vaccines once you've chosen you're stuck with it. Then something like the captain tripps virus can crop up and run amok.

        The drastic and draconian social change would be r

      • by Tom (822) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:00AM (#30776516) Homepage Journal

        I wish we had any politicians left in the west. We don't. What we have is managers. Like all managers, their primary interest is staying on the job and collecting nice salaries, at least until they've build up new and valuable connections and can hop to the next well-paying job.

        The word "Politician" includes the greek "polis", which is the body of citizens, or in american terms, "we, the people". If you know of a politician actually interested in the polis, bring him to the nearest endangered species reserve.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by hughbar (579555)
          That might be OK, if we had a few competent managers, but the ones we have in the UK have stepped straight out of Dilbert. Currently we have 'transformational' government. I've tried telling them that transformational isn't even a word.
        • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:53AM (#30777014)

          Really? I thought politician came from poly, i.e. many and tic, i.e. blood sucking pests.

          I love /., you always learn something new every day. Though, personally, I think my description is better for the current kind of politician.

      • Re:This made my day (Score:5, Informative)

        by umghhh (965931) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:03AM (#30776536)
        as for politicians I guess they had no real choice - WHO used its (recently changed) rules to announce a pandemic and govs had to do something as negligence in case of pending disaster would not only be deadly in political terms but criminal. And on top of this strange annoucnement by WHO (which is I suppose to be investigated now) there are cases like the one of Sir Roy M. Anderson [wikipedia.org]. The whole thing stinks like an industrial swine farm hence the name of the disease.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by s122604 (1018036)
          "as for politicians I guess they had no real choice" - Exactly I you recall, right wing pundits were putting out feelers that Swine flu might be "Obama's Katrina" back in November when it looked like the epidemic was spinning up and we didn't have enough vaccines. So, if epidemic gets bad, "Obama's Katrina" If the epidemic levels off (due in no small part to vaccination efforts), "LOL, you overreacted"... As to the virulence question, yes, the chances of dieing of H1N1 are remote, the chances of getting
      • Re:This made my day (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Anonymous Coward on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:06AM (#30776826)

        Well the WHO deserve a massive amount of blame themselves.

        In fact, I'd put them at the core of it. It was after all Margaret Chan, the WHO's director general that came out with the quote, which was clearly idiotic even at the time of "After all it really is all of humanity that is under threat during a pandemic.".

        I mean seriously, what a load of crap. Not every pandemic comes close to putting the whole of humanity under threat, and it was pretty obvious well before she made this comment that swine flu was not deadly enough to be linked to such an absurd claim.

        Mexico lost many people to it initially, and as soon as someone died from it in the US, the media went into a frenzy because it's not like of course anyone has ever died from influenza before. After the initial large death toll in Mexico. There was at no point through the spread of swine flu to the present day where the ratio of infected to death was anything worse than a typical bad flu season, since initially being at the typical bad flu season it has actually decreased, to be one of the least harmful annual flus we've had. The amount of healthy people that died to it was negligible, the deaths were almost entirely amongst those already old or weak.

        Swine flu never was a threat, it was an outright scam, and the WHO were one of the major players in that scam. I would even argue their involvement was knowing and intentional- how can someone in such a prominent position as Margaret Chan not spot what anyone sensible and down to earth could? That Swine flu just wasn't doing anything serious. She's either grossly incompetent, or intentionally deceptive, either way, she's entirely unfit for the post. She needs to be sacked and replaced by someone who can actually treat such situations with an air of common sense and objectivity, and who can look at the facts before trying to rate the likes of swine flu as something that could whipe out the whole of humanity.

      • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:57AM (#30777040)

        They can't. Blame the media.

        The media thrive on sensationalism, hype and fear. Some invisible killer epidemic is perfect. So they hype and blow it out of proportion as much as they can.

        In comes a politician faced with two choices. Either dismiss it as the usual fear mongering or buy into it. If they dismiss it, first of all they get a lot of negative press, because they don't play along to the media hype. How dare they endanger the lives of the people! And should the near zero chance of actually the hype becoming a real threat happen, they can hope that they may still resign before some angry relatives come for their hides.

        If they buy into it, they blow a shitload of tax money and that's it. Nobody is going to hold it against them when (not if) it turns out to be the usual overhyped bubble. The media won't ask why they blew the money (else they could probably ponder not to play along next time).

        Same's true for the whole terror craze, by the way. Why do you think no politician dares to debunk the whole hype even if (not when) he wasn't included in the kickback package?

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anachragnome (1008495)

      "Now that this information is becoming public this will become an annual event because government can never admit it was wrong."

      They don't have to admit they are wrong. All they have to do is find out which one of these companies actually released the virus in the wilds of Mexico.

      It is against the law to profit from your crimes in this country.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by foobsr (693224)
        All they have to do is find out which one of these companies actually released the virus in the wilds of Mexico.

        Thank you, exactly what I always thought, however this is the first instance (I come across) that someone else utters this suspicion.

        CC.
        • "Thank you, exactly what I always thought, however this is the first instance (I come across) that someone else utters this suspicion."

          Well, now that I've said it and you know your not alone, feel free to say it yourself.

          Amazing how many people will not say what they really think for fear of being labeled a kook or...*gasp*...a conspiracy theorist.

          I've already been labeled a conspiracy theorist, so I've nothing to lose in that sense.

    • by causality (777677)

      Even if it blew a lot of government money. We were hit and hit hard by astroturfing and government fear mongering. Now that this information is becoming public this will become an annual event because government can never admit it was wrong.

      I have said from the beginning, here and elsewhere, that this whole thing was blown completely out of proportion and never deserved the "panic" status it received. It's amazing how much disbelief I encountered, especially in the form of ad-hominems. I suppose that now, some of those people think I just made a lucky guess. Sometimes I wonder how many times must events like this happen before more people wake up a bit and learn to recognize the patterns. The only thing that's unusual or surprising about t

      • by umghhh (965931)
        well I dare to disagree that this 'pandemic' should not have been treated as such by authorities - they have to react on the advise of bodies like WHO. What was really wrong is that nobody of authority really took notice of how WHO changes rules and definitions and as a consequence nobody really investigated whether pandemic claims were all true. Obviously they either did not have the time or went out of their way to not see what was going on. What is really bad is t hat this damaged the reputation of WHO
    • Nor will it admit how much Peter mandleson got in back-handers.
    • It already IS an annual event. Already forgot the avian flu vaccines and the masks? Or didn't you get that on the other side of the pond?

  • Oh, I see (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Andorin (1624303) on Friday January 15, 2010 @02:49AM (#30775912)
    So regular people weren't the only ones caught up in the sensationalism that is/was swine flu. Governments were hooked by it too...
    • by rvw (755107) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:44AM (#30776718)

      So regular people weren't the only ones caught up in the sensationalism that is/was swine flu. Governments were hooked by it too...

      The Dutch government ordered 34 million vaccines for 17 million people. They spent about 200 million Euro on this. Maybe half of that is used, the rest will or will not be sold to other countries. I don't mind that they spend this money. It's like an insurance, and 200 million Euro is nothing compared to the cost of having a hundreds of thousands people ill with the flu.

      A flu that will kill millions of people is going to happen sooner or later. Now nothing serious has happened people are mad, but...

      Shouldn't we be happy instead???

      • by Baki (72515) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:28AM (#30777230)

        The damage might be much later than the money spent/wasted now: the next pandemic, people might not take it serious anymore. Many won't let themselves be vaccinated, thinking it is another scam. Until it might actually be too late and a real nasty pandemic is happening.

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        A flu that will kill millions of people is going to happen sooner or later.

        Why do you believe that? What evidence is there that such a thing will happen?
        This is the third flu pandemic since 1920. The one in 1957-1958 killed between one and four million. The one in 1968-1969 killed around 1 million wordwide. This current pandemic (which appears to be over) is estimated to have killed just under 500,000. Notice a pattern here?
        The 1918-1920 flu pandemic is always pointed to as an example of what could happen. However, that pandemic occured during World War I (which led to people b

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by drinkypoo (153816)

      The vaccine rush was started in the USA, where these companies are based. The US gov't was fearmongering every other day, far more often than any announcements or data from the WTO. Don't kid yourself, this scare was purchased by big pharma.

  • no shit sherlock (Score:5, Insightful)

    by timmarhy (659436) on Friday January 15, 2010 @02:54AM (#30775940)
    it was always fear mongering. and the government shouldn't get to pass the buck either - they made the call to make the order, i'm sure they could have gotten independant advice.
  • WHO's on first?

  • by Xenkar (580240) on Friday January 15, 2010 @02:59AM (#30775968)

    When I read a rumor that mostly fat people were dying from swine flu, it gave me the motivation to lose weight. I went from obese to normal weight in nine months. Now I feel stronger because I am not carrying around 50 pounds of ballast.

    That's the only good thing that has come of the media scare about swine flu.

  • Not only UK (Score:4, Insightful)

    by G3ckoG33k (647276) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:00AM (#30775980)
    This case did not only occur in the UK. Sweden bought 18 million doses, to a population of 9 million at price of about 140,000,000 USD. However, not all have been used as some refused to get it and others cannot. It is quite likely that Glax-Smith-Klein used the situation, but... What if the governments hadn't done it? And people had died as flies... Hindsights...
    • by aussie_a (778472)

      Sweden bought 18 million doses, to a population of 9 million

      How the hell did they justify this? Does Sweeden only count Sweedish citizens in that 9 million estimate? Do they see their entire population move through the country? Even so, would all of those people have needed the flu vaccine while in Sweeden? Were countries hoarding in case there was a shortage?

      Seriously. How do you justify buying 2 vaccines for every single person living in your country?

      • by shaka (13165)

        Apparently, our politicians are even more gullible than the yanks, and they bought into the idea that every person would need not one, but _two_, doses of vaccine!

        As of December last year, 4 million people in Sweden had taken the vaccine. In the entire EU (with a population of 500 million), 10 million had taken the vaccine.

        Yay!

      • by VShael (62735)

        Because when global panic sets in, you can sell the surplus 9 million doses for double the price, and thus the net cost to inoculating your country is zero.

        That's assuming 1) It really was a pandemic 2) The vaccine works

      • by rvw (755107)

        The Dutch government has done the same, and I'm happy they did. They paid about 200 million euros, which is really nothing compared to the risk if the flu had really caught on.

      • If you think that's bad, the German government really took the cake on that one. There's appearantly two different vaccines, one, cheaper, with some not so pleasant side effects and questionable vaccination ability and one that works better but is also more expensive.

        They ordered the expensive variant only for government and some "key personell", while the rest of the population was supposed to get the cheap shot.

        Here [time.com] is the story for the interested. Say about it what you want, but at least these politician

    • by citizenr (871508)
      Would you also like this tiger-repellent rock? In Poland Ministry of Health said this Flu is weaker than normal seasonal ones and did NOT get any vaccines. Lobbyists went apeshit on her (She is a doctor, and a damn good one, people believed her) including Commissioner for Civil Rights trying to get her in legal trouble for "endangering population. He went so far with his little lobbying shit that he contracted flu himself and started claiming it was the swine flu .... Crazy shit.
      • Wow. I never thought I'd say anything good about the current Polish government but ... my deepest respect for that gutsy decision.

  • by Sycraft-fu (314770) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:19AM (#30776054)

    The biggest fear mongering came for news organizations, of course, since that's what they do. However right behind them was the WHO. When Swine Flu started man they went to town with panic type announcements. You read their stuff and you could see where the news organizations were getting the crap they were blowing out of proportion.

    To me it seems like the WHO overreacted, people and governments bought in to it, and now they are looking for a scape goat. While I'm sure the drug companies were more than happy to sell as much vaccine as anyone wanted to buy, I've seen no evidence they were causing the panic. Seems to have stated with poor, sensationalistic stories from the WHO which were then inevitably turned in to mass doomsday stories by the media.

    • by nbauman (624611) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:49AM (#30776454) Homepage Journal

      To me it seems like the WHO overreacted, people and governments bought in to it, and now they are looking for a scape goat

      To you. Are you a doctor? Are you a virologist? What the fuck do you know? Nothing. Do you think anybody in his right mind is going to risk the lives of hundreds of thousands of people by paying attention to you?

      Influenza kills 50,000 people a year in the U.S., usually elderly people who are sick with something else. If that goes up or down by 10%, that's a lot of people. According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 3,000 children, teenagers and young people died this year from the H1N1 flu. These are otherwise healthy young people who would not otherwise have died. A lot of them were infants under 5 years old. The vaccine seemed to have provided significant protection. It's hard to tell how many people would have died without the vaccine, but twice as many is reasonable.

      3,000 deaths is the same number of people who died in the World Trade Center. Did you get upset about that? Or did you laugh it off like you're doing with the flu?

      The 1918 flu caused 650,000 deaths. Nobody really knows why. We could have another epidemic like that any year. When the new flu comes up, nobody knows until it's all over whether it's going to be the big one until it's all over.

      People get into a position of responsibility because unlike you, they're doctors and they know the facts. They're not going to take a chance with 3,000 lives at stake. It's a pretty easy decision: order the vaccine, and take the risk of not needing it, or don't order the vaccine, and take the risk of killing 10,000 people -- or 100,000 people -- or 650,000 people.

      You're like people who say it was a waste of money to build earthquake-resistant buildings because we didn't have an earthquake. Or to build flood-resistant levies because we didn't have a flood.

      You are suffering from stupidity, which is an even worse disease than the flu, and it's going around Slashdot.

      I'm sorry, we really don't have any cure.

      • by mikael_j (106439) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:13AM (#30776584)

        The 1918 flu caused 650,000 deaths.

        Actually, most estimates put it at 50,000,000 to 100,000,000 deaths.

        /Mikael

      • by VShael (62735) on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:39AM (#30776688) Journal

        You're over reacting to the argument from ignorance there, chief.

        The 1918 flu caused 650,000 deaths. Nobody really knows why.
        It caused a lot more deaths than that, but I'll let it slide because you're probably focused on your own country.
        As for "nobody really knows why", I'll assume you're also talking about your own country then, because in the rest of the world? We know why. We've got a very good understanding of the mutations that were involved in the Spanish flu of 1918. Ever since samples of the virus were excavated from bodies buried under the permafrost a few years ago.

        We could have another epidemic like that any year.
        We could, but it's really not very likely.

        When the new flu comes up, nobody knows until it's all over whether it's going to be the big one until it's all over.
        Again, maybe in your country (?) this is true, but in the rest of the world, it's not like we're reading animal entrails in a vague attempt to discern the future.

        When there's an outbreak of a flu virus, samples are taken and lab tested. It takes a short time to get a gene sequence and it's often done at Mill Hill in London. Results are made public.

        Any unusual mutations in the gene sequence can be highlighted and we can get a very good idea of what's likely to be a dangerous strain or not. In all the world wide panic about this recent swine flu, anyone who gave a twopenny crap could have been following actual virology websites, or the releases from Mill Hill. They were far more concerned about the variation which appeared in the Ukraine, by the way.

        You are suffering from stupidity, which is an even worse disease than the flu, and it's going around Slashdot.

        And you are suffering from Chicken Little syndrome.
        "A disaster might happen! Something must be done!"
        "'X' is something"
        "Then let's do 'X'!"

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        Plenty of doctor's and virologists acknowledged pretty quickly that the virus wasn't all that deadly, that vaccinating everyone wasn't really helpful or required and that the chances of the virus becoming something extremely lethal we're very small, and if it would have happened, we wouldn't have an answer to it anyway. Somehow these virologists weren't the ones dragged onto TV every night, writing apocalyptic newspaper articles and advising the government to buy all those vaccins. The virologists and docto

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by drinkypoo (153816)

        3,000 deaths is the same number of people who died in the World Trade Center. Did you get upset about that? Or did you laugh it off like you're doing with the flu?

        Laugh it off? I wave it off, with my middle finger. 85,000 people die due directly to consumption of alcohol every year, but we're not declaring war on alcohol. Anyway, the number of people who died was not at all the big deal there; one or two people dying would have had a similar effect. The point is terror, to make people look up when they see planes. 3,000 deaths is small fucking potatoes.

        People get into a position of responsibility because unlike you, they're doctors and they know the facts. They're not going to take a chance with 3,000 lives at stake.

        The very argument here, made by an influential employee of the WHO, is that they don't know the facts, and moreover

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ivec (61549)

        I am a doctor, and like many in the medical field, I am fed-up with all the BS related to the swine flu.

        Every time that news agencies (Reuters, AFP, etc) publish headlines saying "12500 deaths from the Swine flu" but omit to state in the article that the "classic" seasonal flu kills hundreds of thousands worldwide every year, this is inappropriately biased. I think we can call this fear-mongering.

        Ok, the H1N1 strain might be a bit more aggressive. But the vaccine itself has also been more aggressive, and

        • by martinX (672498)

          I am a doctor,

          A real doctor on /. ! Cool. Could you take a look at this rash I have? Also, I'm WAAAAAY overdue for a prostate exam...

      • The 1918 flu caused 650,000 deaths. Nobody really knows why.

        The most likely suspect is cytokine storm, the same affect which caused most of the deaths in young people.

        To keep it short, their immune system was just too effective.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by devonbowen (231626)

        According to the New England Journal of Medicine, 3,000 children, teenagers and young people died this year from the H1N1 flu. These are otherwise healthy young people who would not otherwise have died. A lot of them were infants under 5 years old.

        Did you really just use a "think of the children" argument?

        Devon

    • IMO the problem was that a very early case was a severe atypical pneumonia and was misdiagnosed as a coronavirus --- i.e. a possibly SARS relative. That would have been cause for panic, but when the misdiagnosis was revealed, it should have been wound back. Unfortunately the WHO (who were responsible for the misdiagnosis IIRC) were already too involved.
  • by Orlando (12257) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:25AM (#30776086) Homepage

    ..who will investigate the handling of swine flu information?

  • I am astounded that the UK Gov spent hundreds of millions on vaccine. Normally most of the cash spent on the NHS goes to layers of managers, travel and hotels for meetings and conferences, management consultants, rebranding etc.

    On the front line, all redundancy has been taken out of the NHS, it operates (ha ha) at full capacity on a 'normal' day with hardly any reserve equipment (I am not talking cat scanners here, I am talking about basic kit that costs a couple of hundred quid), so if there is a bombing o

  • by Animats (122034) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:44AM (#30776164) Homepage

    I have no problem with this. There was a reasonable likelihood of a megadeath sized pandemic. Appropriate steps were taken to prevent it. Some of those steps may have been unnecessary, but it didn't hurt and wasn't outrageously expensive.

    The swine flue vaccination campaign in the US probably has already saved more lives than the entire Department of Homeland Security.

    • There was a reasonable likelihood of a megadeath sized pandemic.

      Actually no. There was a small percentage of people that might have died, and a larger pool of people that would have been pretty sick for a few days. And even at the height of the thing, they were never sure if the percentage of people dying was all that high, because there was such a small sample rate to work from...

      That was it.

      There was never a call to get as worked up as everyone did, where they practically were driving down the streets

      • True. The previous H1N1 epidemic [wikipedia.org] barely made a dent.

        50-100m deaths, when the global population was a quarter of what it is now, is hardly anything.

        You're quite right, "a small percentage of people that might have died" - 5% is, indeed, a small percentage. That'd only be a quarter of a billion deaths these days.

        The orders were put in at a time when no one knew whether it going to stay relatively harmless or mutate to something as potent as the 1918-1920 version of the same virus. Even then, it took them well

        • by atamido (1020905)

          That is poor logic. It is possible for any virus to mutate and become extremely dangerous. It is also possible for the mutation to cause existing vaccines to not work. The 1918 had a mortality rate of about 10%, and it was obvious to everyone that the current version wasn't anywhere near as dangerous. So spending a ton of money on vaccines for a single virus that isn't that dangerous, and might not even work if it became dangerous, when many other viruses have the same risks is poor judgment at best.

          Now

      • by nbauman (624611)

        There was a reasonable likelihood of a megadeath sized pandemic.

        Actually no. There was a small percentage of people that might have died, and a larger pool of people that would have been pretty sick for a few days. And even at the height of the thing, they were never sure if the percentage of people dying was all that high, because there was such a small sample rate to work from...

        That was it.

        There was never a call to get as worked up as everyone did, where they practically were driving down the streets with bullhorns demanding citizens get flu shots.

        Incredible ignorance. Where do you get your information from? According to the New England Journal of Medicine, an additional 3,000 young people died from influenza this year in the U.S., and that's unusual.

        The influenza epidemic of 1917-18 caused 650,000 deaths in the U.S. When a new influenza virus comes up, how do you know it's not going to be another virus like that -- in time to produce vaccines? How do you know it's not going to cause 100,000 deaths? or even 10,000 deaths? You don't.

        The UN and the doc

    • by chiguy (522222) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:23AM (#30776328) Homepage

      It's ironic that Slashdotters, who railed at managers who didn't appreciate their hard work fixing the "Y2K disaster that wasn't", are on the other side here.

      It's better to prevent a catastrophe than to fix one. And because a catastrophe didn't occur may mean the preventive measures were effective.

      From the numbers and trends before availability of the vaccines, this was looking to be a major health issue. *Healthy* *young* people were dying and H1N1 was active during normally dormant periods.

      Record levels of vaccination, especially of school children, and the fortunate displacement of seasonal flu very likely helped make this a health policy success.

      Despite this full on assault (or defense), people are still dying of H1N1. ...I haven't seen whooping cough and rubella around for a while, maybe I'll have my child skip that vaccination too...ahem

      I agree with the DHS comment too...but that's offtopic

      • by pipingguy (566974) *
        It's better to prevent a catastrophe than to fix one

        On the other hand, creating a crisis where none previously existed makes a lot of money.

        What are the actual death numbers for H1N1 vs. normal flu deaths again?

        I'm one of those allergic people people you hear about every now and then - I adapt to my surroundings, not expecting others to accommodate me. My opinion is that people have gone overboard regarding germs and allergies.

        (I was one of those kids that had never-ending allergy tests and shots
    • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday January 15, 2010 @07:13AM (#30777146)

      The swine flue vaccination campaign in the US probably has already saved more lives than the entire Department of Homeland Security.

      You say that like it's some kind of achivement. The average EMT saved more lives last year than the entire DHS since it's existance.

  • by Cochonou (576531) on Friday January 15, 2010 @03:50AM (#30776198) Homepage
    There is similar turmoil in many countries. I find it a bit... opportunistic. At the time the governments ordered the vaccines, the threat wasn't well assessed. Even now, we will probably not know the big picture until the medical data is carefully analyzed. Imagine the kind of reactions we would see if the situation was the opposite, a pandemic still going strong with not enough vaccines.
    • by symes (835608)

      Even now, we will probably not know the big picture until the medical data is carefully analyzed.

      If we don't have systems in place that can rapidly analyse such data with sufficient accuracy to make firm judgements on the potential scale of the problem, systems that stand up to scrutiny, then someone has got their priorities seriously wrong. True, a false alarm is better than a miss in this case - but there was too much noise (including hysteria) when those decisions were made. Hopefully we can learn from all this and put appropriate systems in place and not stack the CDC deck so pessimistically.

  • There are ~309 million people in the US. Did they really think they were going to get ~80% of the entire US population to get the swine flu vaccine? Somebody definitely got kickbacks.

  • by pipingguy (566974) * on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:13AM (#30776288) Homepage
    Has anyone done a comparison to deaths via peanut allergies?
  • Scapegoating (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Toonol (1057698) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:38AM (#30776400)
    I'm all for criticizing the pharmaceutical companies, and their mishandling of the epidemic... but the major governments of the world were eager partners in spreading fear and mis-information. Now they're trying to deflect blame.

    The hysterical press is the third entity that should share in the guilt.
  • Sounds like all the recriminations on Mon Jan 3rd - 2000. "The world didn't end, so obviously we didn't need to do anything".

  • by oGMo (379) on Friday January 15, 2010 @04:44AM (#30776434)

    Think about this a little. Assume you're the person in charge of handling this crisis. There are two main variables, each with two outcomes: "do something now?" and "is H1N1 a big deal?". For the purposes of this conversation, while there may be magnitudes of "is H1N1 a big deal?", any value other than "no, not at all" is about the same as "yes, very". But this leads us to four cases:

    1. We Do Something Now; H1N1 Is a Big Deal: In this case, you ordered lots of vaccine; the pandemic still affected a lot of people, but everything that could be done, was done. You spent money. It probably saved a lot of lives.
    2. We Don't Do Something Now; H1N1 Is a Big Deal: You decided to wait and see; the pandemic affected a lot of people. Millions sick. Significant fraction died. You screwed up, massive loss of life... but you didn't spend any money.
    3. We Do Something Now; H1N1 Not a Big Deal: You ordered lots of vaccine; people might have been affected, but few died. You had lots of vaccine left over.
    4. We Don't Do Something Now; H1N1 Not a Big Deal: You decided to wait and see; H1N1 never went anywhere, people might have been affected, but few died. You didn't spend any money.

    Now look at these scenarios. First off, it should be obvious that not spending the money only "wins" in one out of four cases, and if you look at it politically, you were still gambling with peoples' lives. Second, and perhaps less obvious at first, is that it may actually be hard to tell the difference between 1 and 3. Without seeing both "do" and "do not" played out, can we tell if the vaccine was useful? Sure we may have lots left over, but ... maybe even what was used played a significant role. Compare this to Y2K; lots of money was spent, lots of work was done, and lots of systems didn't break. Was it wasted effort? Was Y2K not a credible issue?

    In the end, it comes down to this: do you value money or the lives of people? You're not a doctor, but lots of credible people tell you this might be a significant problem. Do you cheap out and possibly save a few bucks, risking the lives of millions? Or do you spend a few million bucks possibly unnecessarily, to possibly save millions in the face of a credible threat?

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by RMH101 (636144)
      Thanks for this post, I was about to write something very similar. In the end, it comes down to the simple fact that viruses and their effects on a population are not predictable. They mutate, and the result lies somewhere on the continuum from mild flu at one end, and full on Spanish flu at the other. It's completely plausible that H1N1 might have mutated into something very unpleasant indeed - it's *still* possible this will happen. What *really* irritates me is no-nothings who sit around saying "I to
    • by VShael (62735)

      You're acting as if those 4 options had equal probability. They don't.

      Possibly you borrowed this fallacious line of reasoning from the recent global warming videos doing the rounds on youtube.

      You could equally apply the same model to building nuclear bunkers in your back yard.

      1) We build the bunker now! War breaks out. My family survive.
      2) We Don't build the bunker now! War breaks out. My family die.
      3) We build the bunker now! War doesn't break out. My family survive.
      4) We don't build the bunker now. War do

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by gkai (1220896)

      If it was a credible threat, I would agree with your analysis....However, it was not: The WHO has been issuing warning every last six years with the regularity of a swiss clock, globally, monopolizing media attention for weeks, without the fear materializing even once. This last one is probably the one too much, as it has cost a lot of money to governments in a period where it is scarce, and having a lot of unused vaccines is very bad PR.
      It is clear that WHO have incentives to scaremonger continuously, it j

    • by krou (1027572) on Friday January 15, 2010 @06:15AM (#30776872)
      I understand completely the scenarios you put forward, but the issue is not so much the decision made, but the information the decision was based on. Surely people are right to question whether there is a conflict of interest with regards to who is giving that information? In your scenario, the person making the decision is very, very susceptible to manipulation, because you're arguing that a decision must be made regardless of the quality or accuracy of the information.
  • the global warming scare.
  • by Arancaytar (966377) <arancaytar.ilyaran@gmail.com> on Friday January 15, 2010 @05:09AM (#30776566) Homepage

    Guys, if you prepare for a disaster and it does not actually happen, that is a good thing.

    Firefighters are generally not disappointed when there's no fire.

  • I can vouch that it is/was a pretty serious kind of flu, since it constricts the upper airways. That is the mechanism by which people die of it - they suffocate. I felt like suffocating a few times. However, instead of spending tons of money on vaccines, the health organizations could have spent a fraction of the amount on good old anti-histamine (pseudo-ephedrine hydrocloride). With this flu, treating the symptoms is very effective and all i did, was pop a few Benadrils.
  • (6/6 in modern countries). Experience with previous influenza variants showed that initially mild waves could be followed by very severe ones, as happened after WW1. Considering the number of people who died in the WW1 pandemic, a billion dollars or so is peanuts. It could easily have represented about $50 per life saved.

    I had influenza in 1976. The 1976 strain was a variant of the current swine flu. It nearly killed me, an active person in his twenties of correct body weight who was running up to 6 miles a

  • fearmongering is when you pretty much know something is not a big deal, but you hype it up anyways. but we're talking about a brand new disease here. no one knows what it could have done. no one could say that there was overreacting or underreacting going on, because no one knew what swine flu had in store for us. you are not operating on fear when you consider the worst possible scenarios and the worst possible scenarios are certainly possible. and since the worst possible scenarios are so harsh, you cover all your bases and get a lot of vaccines. there's only logic and reason there, no fear in play

    furthermore, who's to say the government's thorough and overpowering countermeasures all summer didn't make a difference? its like saying it was silly to waste all the money making all the buildings earthquake proof... because the earthquake came and no buildings fell down... well no shit! the quake proofing saw to that! maybe h1n1 was no big deal precisely because we reacted so swiftly and heavily

    i don't know where fearmongering comes into the equation anywhere

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