Back on May 9, 2009, Robin Robinson, a director at the Department of Health and Human Services who oversees pandemic responses, told the Washington Post that even as officials take steps to develop a swine flu vaccine with sufficient doses for every "man, woman and child," those plans would be dialed back if the pandemic "fizzles out."
The pandemic has fizzled out but the gravy train toward vaccine profits is still rolling. On September 16, 2009, Reuters reported that the death rate from the pandemic H1N1 swine flu was likely lower than earlier estimates.
"Barring any changes in the virus, I think we can say we are in a category 1 pandemic. This has not become clear until fairly recently," said Dr Marc Lipsitch of Harvard, an expert in infectious diseases, told a meeting of flu experts convened by the US Institute of Medicine.
"The news is certainly better than it was in May and even better than it was at the beginning of August," he noted.
The US government's Pandemic Severity Index has five categories, with a category 1 comparable to a seasonal flu epidemic. Seasonal flu has a death rate of less than 0.1 percent, Reuters reports. A category 5 would compare to the 1918 flu pandemic, which had an estimated death rate of 2% or more.
Lipsitch gathered information on how many people had reported influenza-like illness around the world, which may or may not actually be influenza; government reports of actual hospitalizations and confirmed deaths, and "came up with a range of mortality from swine flu from 0.007 percent to 0.045 percent," Reuters advises.
Having new information about how many people were infected and did not become severely ill or die makes the pandemic look very mild, Lipsitch said.
Minimal Swine Flu Deaths
The CIA World Factbook estimates the world population to be close to 6. 8 billion and the US population a little over 307 million. At the beginning of the swine flu propaganda campaign, it was predicted that the strength of the pandemic could be measured by watching statistics from the Southern Hemisphere, where flu season runs from May to September, the southern autumn and winter months.
The Southern Hemisphere holds between 10 and 12% of the world's population, meaning the Southern Hemisphere population would be roughly 760 million people, at 11% of the world's total.
According to population numbers for 2008 from Nation Master.com, and statistics from the FluCount.org website, the total number of swine flu deaths, as of September 30, 2009, was only 2,386, for thirteen countries in the Southern Hemisphere, and three countries that are mostly in the Southern Hemisphere, with a total population of 628.3 million people who would have received no vaccine against the swine flu.
India's population of approximately 1.17 billion people amounts to about one-sixth of the world's population, according to the World Factbook. As of October 11, 2009, India's swine flu death toll was a mere 385, according to the Times of India.
On October 6, 2009, the Associated Press reported that the "CDC doesn't have an exact count of swine flu deaths and hospitalizations, but existing reports suggest the infection has caused more than 600 deaths and more than 9,000 hospitalizations since the virus was first identified in April."
But yet the article further notes that "U.S. health authorities hope to give swine flu vaccinations to more than half the 300 million-plus population in just a few months."
The first swine death in the army, the largest military branch with 552,425 soldiers, did not occur until September 10, 2009, according to the Associated Press on October 1, 2009. It was reported to be the only death among the 1.4 million men and women in uniform at that time.
Yet all military personnel are required to receive the new swine flu vaccine. "The Pentagon has bought 2.7 million doses of vaccine, and 1.4 million of those will go to active-duty military personnel," the AP reported on September 29, 2009.
"National Guard troops on active duty are also required to receive the vaccine, as are civilian Defense Department employees who are in critical jobs," the article noted.
In 2007, people under 20 years of age made up 27.6% of the US population, according to the US Census Bureau, meaning roughly 82.8 million people were under 20. At the end of September, the CDC was reporting only 76 deaths from swine flu among children in the US.
Dr Anne Schuchat, director of the agency's National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, told reporters that the number of pediatric deaths ranged from 46 to 88 during the past three flu seasons, which is hard to reckon with the fact that the CDC is always claiming that 36,000 people die of the seasonal flu each year in the US.
But then experts say the CDC's 36,000 flu death statistic, echoed by the media each year, is greatly distorted. In a 2006 paper in the "Journal of American Physicians and Surgeons,} Dr David Ayoub and Dr F Edward Yazbak report that a review of the mortality data from the CDC's National Vital Statistics System (NVSS) reveals "these estimates are grossly exaggerated."
The NVSS reports preliminary mortality statistics and distinguishes between influenza-related deaths and pneumonia-related mortality, they explain.
"When the final report is issued, influenza mortalities are combined with the far more frequent pneumonia deaths, yielding an exaggerated representation of "influenza" deaths," they report.
"Pneumonia related mortality due to immunosuppression, AIDS, malnutrition, and a variety of other predisposing medical conditions is therefore combined with seasonal influenza deaths," the doctors point out.
"The actual influenza related deaths for the years 1997 to 2002 ranged from 257 to 1,765 annually," they advise.
"These values are further overestimated by combining deaths from laboratory-confirmed influenza infections with cases lacking laboratory confirmation," they say. "There were fewer than 100 annual cases of viral-confirmed deaths during this same period."
"Deaths occurring in women of reproductive ages were rare, approximately one per year," they note.
On the CDC's main flu page they state that about 36,000 people die from the flu in the US each year. But if you search a little harder, he says, you find the actual number of people who died from the flu in 2005 was 1,805, the most recent data available.
"In 2004, there were just 1,100 actual flu deaths," Dr Mercola reports on his website.
"The statistics the CDC gives are skewed partly because they classify those dying from pneumonia as dying from the flu, which is inaccurate," he says.
As of October 2, 2009, the World Health Organization was reporting only 4,108 swine flue deaths globally, five months into the pandemic, without any vaccines.
To put these numbers in perspective, consider that in 2005, more than 43,000 people died in motor vehicle accidents in the US, according to the Department of Transportation's National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Risks Outweigh Benefits
Studies also show flu vaccines do not work, and especially with children. On May 19, 2009, researchers at the International Conference of the American Thoracic Society in San Diego, presented a study that found children who received the trivalent inactivated influenza vaccine [TIV] had a three times greater risk of hospitalization for the flu than kids who were not vaccinated.
To determine whether the flu vaccine was effective in reducing the number of hospitalizations over consecutive flu seasons for 8 years, the researchers conducted a study of 263 children between the ages of 6 months and 18, evaluated at the Mayo Clinic between 1996 and 2006, with laboratory-confirmed influenza and reviewed records to determine which kids had received a flu shot before the illness and hospitalization.
According to the study, not only did the vaccine not prevent the flu, the children who received it got sicker than those who did not. Which means that for the 8 year period studied, health insurance companies, government programs and parents paid the cost of useless vaccines, doctors office calls and three times more flu-related hospitalizations, with the children suffering the harshest consequences.
On the "Healthy Skepticism" website, in a September 21, 2009 paper titled, "In the Face of Swine Flu, Common Sense and Science," Juan Gérvas, Honorary Professor, Public Health, School of Medicine, Autonomous University, in Madrid, Spain, reports that the "seasonal flu vaccine is relatively ineffective in children and adolescents, with a success rate of 33%, and is absolutely useless for children under 2 years."
"There are doubts about how effective it is in preventing flu in adults and the elderly," he added.
"We don't know anything about the effectiveness and safety of the swine flu vaccine which is ready to be marketed," Professor Gervas points out.
On April 29, 2008, Psychorg.com ran the headline, "Flu shot does not reduce risk of death," and reported that the "widely-held perception that the influenza vaccination reduces overall mortality risk in the elderly does not withstand careful scrutiny," according to researchers in Alberta, Canada.
The study, published in the September, 2008, American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, a publication of the American Thoracic Society, included more than 700 matched elderly subjects, half of whom had taken the vaccine and half of whom had not.
"After controlling for a wealth of variables that were largely not considered or simply not available in previous studies that reported the mortality benefit, the researchers concluded that any such benefit 'if present at all, was very small and statistically non-significant and may simply be a healthy-user artifact that they were unable to identify.'," the report said.
"Over the last two decades in the United Sates, even while vaccination rates among the elderly have increased from 15 to 65 percent, there has been no commensurate decrease in hospital admissions or all-cause mortality," said Dean Eurich, PhD, clinical epidemiologist and assistant professor at the School of Public Health at the University of Alberta.
"Further, only about 10 percent of winter-time deaths in the United States are attributable to influenza, thus to suggest that the vaccine can reduce 50 percent of deaths from all causes is implausible in our opinion," he advised.
On May 2, 2006, the National Post reported that, "Canada's first experiment in universal, free flu vaccine has cost Ontario taxpayers more than $200-million, but appears to have done nothing to cut the spread of influenza," a new study suggests.
"The Ontario initiative, the world's first universal flu campaign, distributes about five million vaccine doses a year at a current cost of $50- to $55-million, including promotion," the Post said, citing the Health Ministry.
The highly publicized offer of free flu shots to all 12 million Ontarians was launched in 2000 to try to ease pressure on emergency wards from flu patients, and cut the incidence and severity of the illness, the Post noted.
"Per-capita flu rates in the province have not fallen at all since the program was introduced in 2000, concluded the University of Ottawa research, published in the journal Vaccine," the Post reported.
"In fact," the Post said, "the average monthly incidence of the virus jumped over the first five years of the program, though researchers say it is too early to say that numbers are really on the rise."
"All we do know is rates haven't decreased, and there has been a lot of money spent," said Dianne Groll, the University of Ottawa professor who led the study. "The program was designed to reduce the incidence of flu, and this hasn't yet happened."
Dr Groll looked at the number of cases of laboratory-diagnosed flu reported to Health Canada between 1990 and 2005, and found that the rate between 1990 and 2000, when the program started, was 109 per 100,000 Ontarians. Since the launch of the campaign, "it jumped to 164." the Post said.
It's worth noting that the study also found the Ontario flu rates did not change relative to other provinces.
This article series continues with part 3, to be publishing tomorrow...