A firecracker goes off with a bang, loud noise and bright light. When it fades such there is no more noise and the last bit of light disappears almost imperceptibly. Then there is nothing again but sky.
The swine flu has run a similar path. It arrived with a bang and lots of noise. This week it faded with the “official” announcement by the WHO that the pandemic has ended. The disappearance was like the firework going out, hardly noticeable. And we are left with sky, which despite the hysterical claims by health officials did not fall.
The whole issue of swine flu has been badly mismanaged from day one. The closing of schools for a week because a child had a sore throat runny nose and a cough was the first obvious sign that a massive over reaction was happening. Other than appearing in Mexico and getting a fancy name, this was always flu like any other flu. Every year some people get the flu and some die with it.
Yet we have witnessed a full scale health scare, which has wasted billions of taxpayer dollars. Governments on the advice of “experts” ordered millions of vaccines and stockpiled anti viral drugs. The vast majority of these were not used, despite advertising campaigns urging people to be vaccinated. Pharmaceutical manufacturers made significant profits.
As it turned out last year was no different to any other year with regards flu In fact not only was swine flu no more serious than any other strain, in most instances the illness was milder. There were fewer cases and less deaths than usual in the southern winter of 2009 and northern winter of 2010.
Some will defend the authorities on the basis of caution in the face of the unknown. This argument falls down, as flu is known. This was just another strain.
The reason most of the vaccines were not used is that most people very sensibly did not want a rushed out and inadequately tested vaccine against a mild illness. It turned out that those who had previous flu shots were more likely to get reactions to the new one. Worse still there has been a high rate of febrile convulsions in children under five having the flu shot this year leading the Australian government to (belatedly) suspend the use of it in this age group. This was after one child died and dozens more were hospitalized after having the vaccine.
Two weeks later this became public and the main concern of health authorities was not that children had been harmed or exposed needlessly to potential harm but that “an important vaccine program” was being disrupted. A report into how this was handled has called for sweeping changes.
There is another sleeper in all this. Serious questions have been raised in Europe and the USA about conflicts of interest with those advising governments also having ties to vaccine manufacturers. The European Commission has called hearings to investigate this. A New York Times article reported over 60% of advisers to the CDC had potential conflicts of interest including being paid by vaccine makers. In Australia questions have been raised about how close the government is to certain vaccine makers.
The fact that swine flu has been a non-event was largely foreseeable. The waste of taxpayers’ dollars and whipping up of fear in the community is not acceptable. I do not see that anyone is being held accountable. At no time did any “official” provide useful information to the public about what they can do to support their own immune system. The only answers to the “problem” were a vaccine, which was not needed, or an anti viral drug, which does not even work.
I wrote about this on May 28 2009 (and subsequently) and have consistently said that this issue has been mismanaged and that there was never any need for fear, panic or waste of billions of dollars. The public response in ignoring calls for needless vaccination and panic has been far superior to the so called ‘experts” who have been running around with the self importance and attention seeking behavior of Chicken Little.
The reality is that the sky was never going to fall. The firework of swine flu has now faded and the sky remains where it always was.
Update August 17, 2010
The self justification has started. Infectious disease “experts” are patting themselves on the back for saving us from swine flu. In reality in the 2009 winter there was no vaccine and there were fewer flu associated deaths than usual. This year there has been no second wave and this is not due to a small percentage of people being vaccinated.
According to Professor Robert Booy on WA Today “”For smart alecs in retrospect to start saying this was something that we could have almost ignored is just ludicrous.”
The tone of language says it all. Condescending and dismissive. Memo to Prof.Booy- there has been a massive over reaction with waste of health dollars and needless worry whipped up in the public by “experts” who got it wrong.
Whilst heads should (but likely will not roll) a simple apology might be better than blatant self justification.