Thursday, August 12, 2010

Panic-demic No More

Swine flu's back in the news. *yawn*
Remember last year's donning of face masks and begging doctors for Tamiflu? All those mixed messages from overwhelmed health officials? The huge estimates of how many would die of swine flu (H1N1)? The panic rush to medical centres with every little winter sniffle? The hints of bribery by big pharmaceuticals?
Well, this week the World Health Organisation (WHO) declared the H1N1 pandemic is officially over. But just to be sure, H1N1 has been added to this year's flu vaccine jab...
What's not been widely discussed is how well (or rather how badly) health officials predicted the growth of H1N1. The hundreds of thousands of predicted deaths turned out to be wildly inflated. The actual number of deaths is estimated at 12,000 - still a terrible toll but one that's eclipsed by the 50,000 deaths a year caused by seasonal flu. And ironically, the outbreaks started to decline naturally around the same time the vaccine finally became readily available. But by cricky, the panic sure boosted sales!
And now it transpires that more than half the USA's massive stockpile of H1N1 vaccine (US$1.6 billion!) was not used: only 80-90 million out of 229 million doses were administered. The rest, untouched and soon to expire, will be dumped!
There's no doubt the vaccine helped the pharmaceutical companies...but did it really contain the epidemic? And surely most journalists will now be a little deflated that they can no longer use in their repertoire that deliciously-emotive word "pandemic". Awwwww, such a shame!

[For all my postings on the inflated Swine Flu scare, click here...]

No comments: