Pandemic or Politics?


Here in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s influenza season again, and the topic du jour this year is H1N1, also known as Swine Flu.  I’ve found myself perplexed by this little bug since it first hit the mainstream media earlier this year.

The thing that really caught my attention was how quickly the World Health Organization (WHO) decided to label it a pandemic.  It had taken 11 weeks for the virus to kill as many people as normal seasonal flu kills in just a few hours.  Yet WHO decided that it was worthy of pandemic status. 

Being the curious little researcher that I am, I decided to look up the definition of a pandemic.  According to WHO, three conditions must be met:

  • The disease must be new to a population – or at least a disease that has not surfaced for a long time.
  • It must spread quickly.
  • And there must be little or no immunity to it.

H1N1 definitely meets the last two criteria, but the first one?  Not exactly.  It’s been circulating among humans for decades, although this particular strain hasn’t been seen widespread since the 1970s.  So I guess it could technically meet the first criteria.

I should have been satisfied with that, but I wasn’t, so I dug a little deeper.  Lo and behold, just before declaring H1N1 a pandemic, WHO had changed its definition.  It had removed two additional criteria:

  • There must be a high morbidity.
  • There must be a high mortality rate.

Hmmm.  Now it starts to get interesting.  What possible reason could WHO have for making it easier to declare a global pandemic? 

The cynic in me immediately went straight to the two most common reasons for everything in this world: money and power. 

At present, 5 companies worldwide have developed an approved vaccine for H1N1 (Baxter, Novartis, Sanofi-Aventis, GlaxoSmithKline, and CSL).  By declaring a pandemic, WHO has forced governments worldwide to respond to the “threat” of this outbreak.  As a result, those 5 companies stand to make exorbitant profits.  I don’t think it’s all at far-fetched to think that some of those profits will be making their way back to the WHO “voluntary contribution” coffers.

As for the power…well, WHO has been doing what all NGOs seem to do eventually.  They’ve been migrating into the world of politics.  In a recent speech in Copenhagen, Director-General Margaret Chan made several comments about how global policies regarding social, economic and climate change should fall under the purview of public health – in other words, under the influence of WHO.

The big kink in their plans though, was that prior to H1N1, they were losing credibility, and they were losing it fast.  There have been reports surfacing from multiple sources that the number of HIV infections has been grossly exaggerated for years in the name of political correctness and additional funding.  There was the widespread hysteria over Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) which killed only about one day’s worth of flu victims before it vanished.  And more recently, the refusal of Avian Flu (H5N1) to go pandemic, after nations around the world had stockpiled (bought) millions of doses of vaccines at WHO’s urging.

Yes, it’s quite fair to say that WHO needed to improve their standing.  So when H1N1 came along, they realized that it was awfully simple to change a little definition here, cross out “Avian” and replace it with “Swine” over there, sound the alarm, and shout, “PANDEMIC!”

As Director-General Chan stated in her speech last month [emphasis mine],

“…Public health had no say in the policies that seeded the financial crisis or set the stage for climate change. But public health has much to say about the influenza pandemic, how it is managed, and how its impact can be reduced.

This is one occasion when heads of state and ministers of finance, tourism, and trade will listen closely to ministers of health. This is one occasion where the need for “health in all policies” becomes readily apparent…”

Voila!  Instant credibility and political influence…

In regards to the controversy regarding the safety of the vaccines, I’m not going to presume to tell anyone what they should or shouldn’t do to protect themselves and their families.  Do your own research and make up your own mind.  I, for one, will not be volunteering for that injection.  H1N1 may yet develop into the killer virus that many have been predicting, but personally, I doubt it. 

What I don’t doubt, is that once again, the public in being manipulated and used as pawns in the game of political gain. Once again, the taxpayers will be left footing the bill.  And once again, the public is left wondering exactly whose side the men and women we trust to lead us, are really on.

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