Was swine flu really a hoax?

  • Niall Hunter, Editor

You know the swine flu pandemic is a hoax, don’t you?  Oh yes (pause for self-satisfied cough). All dreamed up by drug companies and other vested interest groups (and they are nearly always "vested") to feather their own nests.
And of course the conspiracy theorists, sorry I mean expert commentators and bloggers, are right. Swine flu was a complete hoax, designed simply to keep drug companies rich and public health officials busy, to give the media something to write about and to give us all something to debate around the water cooler.
In fact, it’s probably all the media’s fault. Let’s face it, pretty much everything these days is.

Perhaps Rupert Murdoch could tell us more. Was he part of a cabal that planned the greatest public health hoax of all time?
I wouldn’t be a bit surprised. (Conspiracy theorists say that a lot. They call it "proof".)
Yes indeed, swine flu is a conspiracy on as grand a scale as the 1969 moon landing (filmed in a Hollywood studio, you know); the JFK assassination (Killed by Lyndon Johnson, the Pope, J Edgar Hoover, de Valera or whoever else you might care to mention ) and Princess Di’s death (it’s obvious her parents-in-law,or perhaps Camilla Parker Bowles, had her bumped off).
Let’s get real for a minute. So swine flu was a hoax? Tell that to the families of the 22 people in Ireland who died as a result of it

The official world death toll of 14,000 is regarded as a gross underestimation of the real incidence of the infection.

The Council of Europe and the WHO are to examine claims that the danger of swine flu was exaggerated under pressure from drug companies who stood to profit from and outbreak of swine flu.

The WHO would be due to assess its handling of the pandemic in any case, but it now faces accusations that it was essentially part of a worldwide conspiracy to fan the flames of a pandemic that didn't really exist.

However, when you think about it, it doesn't really make much sense that the world's main health protection body would simply invent serious diseases.
The fact that the swine flu outbreak is receding seems to have fuelled the conspiracy theories.
It’s a case of being wise after the event, which is a luxury people running and planning health services cannot always afford.
The Council of Europe is now to debate a resolution that accuses drug companies of leaning on public health officials worldwide about the risks of swine flu.
Dr Wolfgang Wodarg, head of health at the Council of Europe, accuses drug firms of organising a campaign of panic which encouraged the World Health Organisation to declare a pandemic when the H1N1 virus emerged last spring.
He has to date not provided any proof, as far as I can make out, for these claims.
He says the pharmaceutical industry has influenced scientists and government agencies and needlessly exposed millions of people to unknown side-effects of insufficiently tested vaccines.
Taken to its logical conclusion, such an argument would suggest that that Governments should have ignored the swine flu threat.
Unfortunately, this really would have needlessly exposed millions to serious illness and death. 

Scare stories of harmful effects of the H1N1 jab have tended to be interwoven with the current conspiracy theory about how Governments dealt with the pandemic.
Nobody is denying that the swine flu vaccine, indeed any vaccine, does not come without a risks of side effects or even, very rarely, serious long-term effects. And, as it is a new vaccine, the full picture of side effects from the H1N1 vaccine will not emerge for some time.
However, the benefits of the vaccine, as with most vaccines, have been calculated to outweigh the rare chance of serious side effects occurring.
But let’s for a minute grant some credibility to the pandemic hoax theory.

This would presuppose that Governments and public health agencies around the world were, last spring, not really interested in dealing with a newly-emerged virus that posed a potential massive threat to world health.
Until, that is they were goaded into action by the pharmaceutical companies.

Even if this scenario were to be taken on board for a minute, the next logical question is, what would be the "quid pro quo?"
What exactly would have been in it for Governments and health agencies in facilitating the mass supply of vaccines or the distribution of anti-flu drugs for no good reason? Do they need to be pressurised to do their jobs and protect public health?

What were the drug companies going to do for them in return? This is another part of the conspiracy theory that is light on proof or logic.
Claims of conflicts of interest have also been made, and it is true that there are people who advise both drug companies and Governments.
However, the WHO has said numerous safeguards exist to manage possible conflicts of interest. So is the WHO, the world’s main health organisation simply lying about this?

Probably not.
The fact is that until Governments achieve the wherewithal to manufacture pharmaceutical products themselves, big companies are going to do so, and will continue to make money from this.

And while the system is by no means perfect, the manufacture and distribution of drugs is subject to controls and regulations.
While capitalism has seen its reputation somewhat tarnished lately, we still live in a capitalist world, with all its faults.

And multinationals will continue to make money, and indeed some stood to gain from the swine flu pandemic. This, however, does not prove that the whole outbreak was manufactured or that Governments decided to deal with it purely on the basis of pressure or lobbying by pharmaceutical companies.


Also, whether we like it or not, drugs and medicines usually help sick people or prevent disease. That’s what the H1N1 vaccine was for - to prevent a potentially deadly virus spreading.


That's a bit boring I know, and not very "bloggy", but it's pretty much true most of the time.
Pandemic prediction is not an exact science. Even the most knowledgeable experts cannot tell how widespread an outbreak will be or whether a virus will mutate to provide an even deadlier strain of an infection.

Last year, when swine flu emerged, there was no way of knowing how serious the outbreak would be, how many waves of disease would take place and whether the virus would mutate.

We still do not know for sure whether H1N1 infection is going to continue to wane or worsen.
To be fair, there was some “we’re all going to die” hysteria created last year over swine flu, a reaction largely due to pretty much everyone being in the dark as to how deadly the pandemic would be.
And there were perhaps some over-the top predictions from health officials in the UK about the need for more mortuary space and in Ireland, that one quarter of the population might get swine flu.
Yet these statements were made in good faith by health planners whose job was to prepare for the worst.
There is of course, always a need for accountability and it is perfectly legitimate for people to question the actions of Governments, major agencies and multinational companies.
There will obviously be a number of formal reviews of the response to the swine flu pandemic in Ireland and abroad.

These may well conclude that the outbreaks could have been handled better. None of them, unless there is a huge "smoking gun" somewhere, is likely to conclude that the swine flu pandemic was essentially a hoax or a "false pandemic".

For a conspiracy theory to be proven you have to presuppose that many leading people in large organisations all acted in unison for less than pure motives. The logistical and practical likelihood of this being the case is very small. That's why conspiracy theories seldom become fact.
A question that should be put to the conspiracy theorists is whether it is OK for Governments and health agencies not to do their job properly and thereby put the health of the public at undue risk.

One cannot help but speculate that many of the same people now crying “swine flu hoax" would have been marching with placards if Governments and health agencies had turned their backs and taken no action on a worldwide public health threat.

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