At least, that’s how those working in medicine/health were characterised in a letter to one of our local papers. The writer seems to see the whole vaccines/pandemic warnings issue as a conspiracy to drive up profits for doctors, scientists, & pharmaceutical companies.
Personally I always thought doctors & health researchers were in the business of helping people, but perhaps I’m just naive….. But no, I just don’t buy this conspiracy thing. (Yes, pharmaceutical companies make money from their products – so does anyone else succeeding in their business. And yes, they make errors from time to time & have been caught out – usually as a result of scientific scrutiny. But this is not the same as some global conspiracy to make outrageous profits from others’ ill-health.)
But I have heard people saying that the latest pandemic ‘scare’ – the one over Human Influenza A H1N1 (more commonly called ‘swine flu’) – has been rather overblown. After all, it seems to have turned out to be a storm in a teacup. Have we done ourselves a disservice in this? Will it make people more inclined to ignore the next warning.
I hope not – at the very least it has raised awareness of the public health steps needed to deal with any flu outbreak: the handwashing, use of tissues, & so on. And things could so easily have turned out differently. Apparently the H1N1 strain has already acquired the ability to spread between humans more easily than other strains of seasonal influenza. If this had been combined with virulence factors, so that H1N1 made people really seriously sick, then we would indeed be looking at a serious global health issue. The early & rapid response to ‘swine flu’ coming out of Mexico meant that we had a breathing space; if this virus does turn out to be less harmful than first expected, doesn’t mean it will be the same next time. (And that remains a big ‘if’, given that this does seem to be a rapidly-evolving strain.)
And if that breathing space gives people the luxury of time to complain, well, that’s human nature I guess.
You might be interested in this article from the NYTimes – the World Health Organisation is changing its ‘rules’ to do with warning the world about imminent pandemics. (Thanks, Grant!)