There was a remarkable moment in the unfolding swine flu saga on UK television on Tuesday morning. Following the publication of a systematic review of the safety of anti-virals such as Tamiflu and Relenza for children which came to the view that they were contra-indicated for the under-12s (HERE) TV interviewer Andrew Castle presented health minister Andy Burnham with the case of his own his own daughter, Georgina. Georgina, who suffers from asthma, had been prescribed Tamiflu without seeing doctor on suspicion that she had swine flu, and was subsequently taken to hospital with respiratory collapse. The interview also highlighted the fact that in many cases if you are presently suspected of having swine flu you will not be seen by a doctor for fear of contagion, and will be interviewed by people with no medical training – often in their teens (HERE)– before being handed out anti-viral drugs. Despite the publication of the new study the Chief Medical Officer, Sir Liam Donaldson, is sticking to his guns that Tamiflu should be given to children on the basis that the new study was based on the treatment of conventional flu not swine flu (See YouTube). Castle also pointed out that other adolescents at his daughter’s school had suffered ill-effects from the drug.
It should be stated categorically, whatever people in the United States believe about our National Health Service in the UK, that these events are completely without precedent in its history. By now we are having deaths of people who have been prevented from seeing doctors and given wrong diagnoses as a result of the scare Mother Dies of Meningitis After Swine Flu Diagnosis, Girl Dies of Meningitis after Swine Flu Diagnosis ). Many children are suffering the vile and unnecessary side-effects of Tamiflu. We have thousands of people bunking off work on suspicion of having the illness (Swine Flu Skivers Cost Firms More than Virus), and a doctor wrote to me last week complaining that the numbers were being artificially inflated:
'I have been doing locums in lots of different practices . In some Primary Care Trusts, they are remunerating GPs for their extra swine flu work by looking at how many consultations are logged as 'swine flu', so I have been told to enter any cold, upper-respiratory tract infection , fever etc as swine flu, and some GPs are going back in their patients records since the swine flu started and re-labelling the reason for the consultation. Is it any wonder there are so many cases?'
But what is very interesting about all this is that although many people have been scared by all the hype (which has been led by the World Health Organization and by the UK government) they are also beginning to learn the lesson and have become profoundly cynical about what is going on - more people joke about it than are scared, but they are also beginning to be very fed up. It is instructive to look at the posts under the Daily Mail report of the Castle interview: most posters think the whole thing has been got up by the pharmaceutical industry and the government to sell their products: they are also vastly apprehensive about the forthcoming universal vaccination campaign with vaccines which they know have not been properly tested (Children Given Untested Swine Flu Vaccine).
The unprecedented nature of the proposed arrangements seems to have led the Department of Health to fabricate the claim that there was a similar mass vaccination against smallpox in 1964 (HERE ) (the last numerically significant smallpox vaccinations in the UK seem to have taken place in 1960 and 62, involving less than 700,000 people in total (HERE ).
Whatever, the origins of the virus the cynical view of much of the public is perhaps no better than our governments and the pharmaceutical industry deserve. Despite our overloaded vaccine schedules - in the UK we have 25 vaccines by 13 months (Immunisation Schedule) – the pharmaceutical industry is still placing its major hopes for expansion in the area of vaccines in the next decade (Pharma 2020 Vision , Doubling Vaccine Sales by 2013 , Kids Vaccine Market Set to Quadruple ). In the circumstances it is an interesting question how this could possibly be accomplished without a series of gigantic, global health-scares? All we can say is - if this is the case - that in the UK at the moment it appears not to be working, and if we are visited by more dangerous viruses in future people may not see the pharmaceutical industry and the government as their protectors.
John Stone is UK Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.