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Are we worrying too much about swine flu?

October 21st, 2009
11:41 AM ET

LONDON, England - Millions of Britons started to be vaccinated for swine flu Wednesday with the country's chief medic urging all priority groups to take up the offer of immunization.

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/images/10/21/vaccine.gi.jpg caption="Almost 400,000 people have been infected with swine flu around the world."]

The program, which offers more than 11 million people the vaccine, began with hospitals immunizing 2 million health workers and their patients against the disease.

Liam Donaldson, chief medical officer for England, said frontline health and social care workers must get themselves vaccinated against swine flu along with other groups classified as a "priority" or at risk, such as pregnant women and some children.

He said: "This is the first pandemic for which we have had vaccine to protect people. I urge everyone in the priority groups to have the vaccine - it will help prevent people in clinical risk groups from getting swine flu and the complications that may arise from it."

Several other countries have started immunization programs, including the United States, Australia and China.

There are two types of the vaccine available: the flu shot, an inactivated vaccine containing fragments of killed influenza virus, and a nasal spray, which is made using a weakened live flu virus.

The nasal spray will most likely be the first to be widely distributed, however certain groups, including pregnant women, young children and people with compromised immune systems, cannot receive the nasal spray.

So far U.S. health officials say that in clinical trials they've seen no serious side effects and that study subjects who have been immunized have generated a good response.

Swine flu has infected almost 400,000 people since April, of whom more than 4,700 have died, according to the World Health Organization. But these are small numbers compared to those who die every year from malaria, AIDS or even normal influenza. So are we giving swine flu too much prominence compared to other diseases? Send us your comments and we'll try to use them in tonight's show.

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Raja

    No, absolutely not, Swine flu should be kept under control as much as possible.

    AIDS, a lot of money is and has already been spent and we also have normal flu shot vaccinations which is intended to ward off some variations of influenza and common flu related diseases.

    What we dont want is another disease that spreads out of control and could lead to making the human immune system weaker and more suseptable to other diseases as well as being deadly by itself.

    October 21, 2009 at 12:23 pm | Reply
  2. Obamo

    Big pharma won again, through fear and media, members of congress could have been paid very big money from Big pharma to vote for the new law that at anytime the flu shot can become mandatory, this is how you make money...loads of it....with money,....what if only one nasal shot becomes infected by a bio-terrorist act....millions will die if not billions,
    the world food output has reach the maximum last year, no more increase possible but humanity still growing....only one solution left......very sad but unfortunatly necessary .. very dark days ahead..and people talking about economic recovery, hahaha IMHO

    October 21, 2009 at 12:35 pm | Reply
  3. Zina

    Yes we are!! immunization could lead to the evolution of a stronger virus which in turn could lead to more dangerous and lethal strands in the short term. Have we thought about what we will do then!?

    October 21, 2009 at 12:49 pm | Reply
  4. Ozgur Zeren

    i think so. it generally has been milder than a seasonal flu. 400.000 infected, 4700 died. they are going rather overboard with the scare.

    October 21, 2009 at 12:50 pm | Reply
  5. Aaron

    Over-hyped...well, duh!

    October 21, 2009 at 12:52 pm | Reply
  6. Ralph

    It might be interesting to check out the Swine Flu propaganda of 1976 before taking any vaccination shots!


    October 21, 2009 at 1:01 pm | Reply
  7. Edgar Allan

    Maybe the big preocupation with the swine flu is because the people, thanks at the media, feel that every one may get it, but in another hand, anybody makes or takes time to see the drama of malaria because this is more risk for the poor people that doesn't have money or big resources to make a big noise in the media and is rare that the goverments and the big pharmaceuticals companies have developed a vaccine in record time while the malaria still being a real big problem for people around the world, Why not solve that sort of problem with the same proficiency? I know that it's not easy but anyway they've had many time to do it.

    October 21, 2009 at 2:14 pm | Reply
  8. Muthyavan.

    Swine flu is not that dangerous as that of many threaten diseases today that is killing million peoples around the world every year. But the health care spending and pharmaceutical industry are absorbing a huge portions of many nations income preventing spending on other important matters. This is the second time in the past one hundread years that this swine flu out break is causing alarm in many corners of the world disrupting normal life. Because of intensive travelling and increased facilities very often people are gathering in large numbers around the world in many places of interest. Global activities have transformed the world into a closed global village creating new new health epidemics and conflicts for the new generation to tackle.

    October 21, 2009 at 2:42 pm | Reply
  9. C Smith

    So are we giving swine flu too much prominence compared to other diseases? The answer is a resoundung YES! If researchers cannot come up with a vaccine for the flu that kills over 30,000 people each year in our country alone, how can they come up with a vaccine for some special flu that has only killed 4700 people world-wide who, BTW, had comprimised immune systems in the 1st place.

    This is 1976 all over again! My tax dollars are going to enrich the makers of Tamiflu (Dick Cheney is on the board) at the expense of my health. It is dangerous to use the public as guinea pigs especially women and children. Flu for most people is easily cured with lots of rest and lots of liquids. And people I know who have had the regular flu shot have gotten sick from it as if they had the flu. What good is that!

    October 21, 2009 at 3:05 pm | Reply
  10. Caroline

    Yes, I think this is being blown way out of porportion. If we remember from what happened in 1976 more people died from the immunization for swine flu then they did from the actual flu.

    From what I read in news articles the ingredients contained within the vaccine are more deadly long term than the actual flu itself.

    Should we take hygeine percautions – absolutely – I was recently in Costco and they had disinfectant handi wipes at the front of the store so you can disinfect the handles on the shopping cart – that is a good idea – and we have them at work and use them with our kids in our boys and girls club at church – hygeine is key in slowing down the spread of this virus.

    I almost start to think that some of these theories that are being promoted out there may have some truth to them – is there another reason the governments is want us to take these vaccinations instead of just protecting ourselves from a flu? I am beginning to wonder!

    October 21, 2009 at 3:12 pm | Reply
  11. Peter Sanders

    The world knows that this flue has a potential catastrophy at a global level. I have two children and protecting my children from harm is very important to me. We have been warned at an early stage of the release of this flue that in the end the preventative measures taken may help us, but on the other hand may have been un-neccessary if the number of deaths is small compared to other sicknesses. But at least it will help the world economy.

    October 21, 2009 at 3:18 pm | Reply
  12. Eric

    A lot of attention has been given to a small outbreak; considering the world population is nearly 7 billion, 0.0057% of humans have been contaminated and 0.000067% of humans have died as a result of the flu H1N1. Vaccination research is important for the future in the event the flu begins spreading at a faster rate. I would currently not accept vaccination since we do not know all possible side effects nor if the flu will evolve in relation to the vaccination.

    October 21, 2009 at 3:56 pm | Reply
  13. Bob M

    I feel that people should leave their political views aside and view the Swine Flu epidemic as a scientific issue. I doesn't really matter who's making money out of the vaccine production so long as it is available. In 1918 the original Swine Flu epidemic was bad in Ft. Riley, KS, but after it went to Europe with the soldiers and returned to the US, it had mutated and was exteremly deadly. Overall this virus killed at leastas 20 million people world-wide, and according to historical record was so bad in the US that the social fabric was beginning to unravel. There were thousands of families abandoned by their parents due to the fear of that illness.

    Can we really afford to take a chance that a similar scenario will be played out when it can be readily prevented? I appreciate how Big Pharma has abusde the American people over a long period of time, but this is one time that their products are really needed. It may turn out that the severe threat doesn't materialize, but spending our resources as a matter of prevention in this case beats the hell out of squandering them on imperial wars.

    October 21, 2009 at 3:57 pm | Reply
  14. Chris

    Swine flu manufacturers have now been granted legal immunity in case something goes wrong that causes side effects associated with the vaccine. Kathleen Sebelius, Secretary of Health and Human Services signed a document making federal officials and vaccine makers immune from lawsuits related to any ill effects from the swine flu vaccine.

    Fears about the effects of a novel swine flu vaccine have sparked much discussion. A swine flu outbreak among soldiers at Fort Dix, N.J in 1974 resulted in vaccinations that caused side effects including Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a condition that causes paralysis. The result was thousands of lawsuits.

    Stephen Sugarman, a law professor who specializes in product liability at the University of California at Berkeley says, "The government paid out quite a bit of money”, following past swine flu vaccination side effects.

    Most cases of swine flu have been mild. The WHO has stopped tracking cases. No one knows how many infections have really occurred, because not everyone seeks treatment.

    Five pharmaceutical companies are manufacturing swine flu vaccine. The drugs are not as profitable as some, like cancer drugs, but immunity from legal action provides incentive to vaccine makers.

    Paul Pennock, a New York plaintiffs attorney on medical liability cases spoke out about the immunity granted to swine flu vaccine makers, saying "If you're going to ask people to do this for the common good, then let's make sure for the common good that these people will be taken care of if something goes wrong." The document granting protection from lawsuits to swine flu vaccine makers was signed by Sebelius last month.

    October 21, 2009 at 4:04 pm | Reply
  15. Shawn

    It's more than ridiculous!!! The swine flu is mild, mild, mild when compared to the influenza caused fatalities every year.

    October 21, 2009 at 4:24 pm | Reply
  16. robert patel

    Hi Becky,
    It is very easy to declare everything a hype!!

    Given the fact that H1N1 vaccination's effectiveness is not known and the fact that the virus can mutate anytime within 8 minutes;I do not think it is just scare mongoring!!

    Yes it is true there many other diseases like aids,malaria and fifty others with comparable devastation capability does not mean we should ignore H1N1 and its variants.Global health community has to be in a position to tackle many of these diseases in parallel!

    Afterall,big organisations/companies (eg like yourselves -CNN can report on 100 stories at the same time with some effectiveness) so why not the world health community.It is no more Mickey Mouse than CNN !!

    We shall regret it ( if we follow advice of some of your commentators today ) if we ignore the risks of H1N1 and find 2-10 million dead as a result of it!!


    R. Patel

    October 21, 2009 at 4:25 pm | Reply
  17. Prof.J.Jinadasa

    Yes, the entire world has given far too much attention to swine flu, it doesnt kill in the way Melaria or Dengue heamoragic fever. Its a false ego. But better to bring it under control.

    October 21, 2009 at 4:44 pm | Reply
  18. nicole

    Hype! Yes! There are remedies through herbs, vitamins, and overall good eating habits. Not to mention, plenty of rest. Although, not everyone has that luxury in this country. I woudn't trust any pharmaceutical for even the time of day.

    October 21, 2009 at 4:45 pm | Reply
  19. Maximilien

    I believe that in most democratic countries, the swine flue is convenient for everyone. The medias get something to talk about and the politicians can get votes and public support by showing their concerned faces on TV. Swine flue is also convenient for average people, they can be seen as victims of medias, but there is a reason why medias get so much audience for talking about swine flue... Does the media tell to wear condoms 4 times a day? don't I think so.

    October 21, 2009 at 4:47 pm | Reply
  20. Cameron

    The News is WAY over-hyping this Flu and the Vaccine, and so is the Government.
    Baxter, one of the companies giving us the shot, is the same company found a few years ago with selling a drug contaminated with the HIV virus to thousands upon thousands of Hemophiliacs worldwide.
    NOT TO MENTION that LESS THAN ONE YEAR AGO this same company got caught in Europe with ANOTHER CONTAMINATED VACCINE that actually contained the LIVE, LETHAL VERSION of the Avian Flu. We are lucky a scientist caught this before it went out to millions of people.
    and really, how does a deadly strain of the same virus you are trying to vaccine against end up in millions of vaccines? Accidentally? Yeah right.

    October 21, 2009 at 5:17 pm | Reply
  21. Teresa B.

    I had swine flu and I got better in about five days. Swine is way too over-hyped, its just like the regular flu. School's have been closed, trips have been cancelled, swine flu has just ruined everything without a good reason. People are worrying over nothing, yes, it is something to be concerned about, but this massive scale of vaccinations etc. its over the top.

    October 21, 2009 at 6:48 pm | Reply
  22. Fer

    IF as predicted, 30% of the US population is going to be infected this winter, and the death rate is 0.5%, that translates into 4.62 millions deaths. That's without the vaccine, so its pointless to ask if its worth worrying about swine flu. 4.62 million deaths, is not a pretty figure.

    October 21, 2009 at 7:39 pm | Reply
  23. Dr. Janine Pink

    How can you make a such a positive review of a vaccine without addressing the addatives that are part of such vaccines. The addatives caues far more problems than the virus/ unactive form of the virus itself!!!

    October 21, 2009 at 8:38 pm | Reply
  24. Laura

    Most people are followers...not original thinkers. When their peers and mass media brainwash everyone into this hype...some HUGE phamaceutical company out there makes millions. This is how things have worked since the beginning of time...first the stongest warlord, then the religious power of the moment, and now the almighty dollar. Just THINK before blindly following. But wait! That's not "politically correct" is it?

    October 21, 2009 at 10:51 pm | Reply
  25. Stephen

    "Influenza is serious business" – He accidentally hit the nail on the head with that one.

    October 21, 2009 at 11:05 pm | Reply
  26. Taylor

    i think that keeping H1N1 under control is the best thing we can do right now.

    October 21, 2009 at 11:50 pm | Reply
  27. E. Wernham

    Yes, I believe that the so called swine flu epidemic has been blown way out of proportion by the media, big pharma and anyone else who would benefit from the hype. There are other more important epidemics that should be receiving the attention and hype like Autism for example. Instead, the government is cutting back on funding for these unfortunate children and their parents. I certainly will not be getting the swine flu vaccination. I have done my research on the dangers of vaccines and I know that they are not effective in reducing a person's susceptibility to disease. In fact, vaccines cause the virus to mutate which is very dangerous. I just wish that people would use their common sense, do their own research and see the light. Big pharma wants us to be sick otherwise, they're not making their billions of dollars off their dangerous drugs. I have used homeopathic medicines for my family for several years now and they work amazingly well, are moderate in cost and do not cause any harm or damaging side affects as do most pharmaceuticals. I have been dosing my family with influenzium which is the homeopathic flu nosode. I have absolute faith and trust in homeoapthic medicines. They can prevent and cure almost any disease.

    October 22, 2009 at 12:40 am | Reply

    I don't think that you could worry too much about the swine flu. America needs to take as any precautions as possible. Not only America, but the flu is world wide. The virus has proven to be deadly and serious, so how could we possibly be worrying too much. In other words, we may need to worry a bit more!

    October 22, 2009 at 5:48 am | Reply
  29. Bridget

    YES, YES, YES...The media in fuelling unnecessary worry.

    This has gotten way out of control. The only people profiting are the media and pharmaceutical companies. I travelled between London, Scotland, the United States and Turkey this summer and didn’t even catch a cold. Thousands of people get the “flu” every year and every year thousands more get the flu shot and every year thousands get the actual flu and unfortunately some people die from the flu. Come on people…Get a grip. It’s recycled news and apocalypse.

    October 22, 2009 at 11:56 am | Reply
  30. jurjen tammenga

    I voted no, although i have two mind's about the subject.
    Flu is a killer, responsable for more deaths than an all wars combined.
    So it should be taken very seriously. On the other hand there is sometimes a bit to much information, some not even relevant, like in my country where a flu expert works and gets his money from as a major subject in the news. If the reporter had done his homework proper it would not have been an issue. Others are debating the pro and cons of getting a flu shot. It strikes me sometimes as f.u.d.

    October 22, 2009 at 2:27 pm | Reply
  31. John D

    What me worry?
    That comes from Mad magazine back when this swine flu first showed its head. It fizzled then, and I expect it will fizzle again. If it doesn't, and I die, so what? I am 59, out of work, my bills have become too much to manage, and my wife could use the insurance proceeds much more than my extra mouth to feed. Our retirement savings will support only one of us, so ... better her than me and/or us.
    Bring it on!

    October 22, 2009 at 7:00 pm | Reply
  32. C Smith

    I retract my comment on Dick Cheney being on the board of Roche, licensed owners of Tamiflu. Donald Rumsfield was chairman at Gilead when Tamiflu was developed.

    October 23, 2009 at 1:38 am | Reply
  33. Teresa

    If swine flu is so contagious why are they giving it in a nasal spray and sending it out in public? If you give a kid the nasal spray and they wipe their nose and touch things, won't that spread the virus? Especially to those with compromised immune systems?

    October 24, 2009 at 7:30 pm | Reply
  34. Willem Vermeer

    Sure, we should try to keep swineflu in check as much as possible, but currently it all looks like something of a – very negative – hype. And so may people love a hype, don't they?

    Like so many other hypes, this one will pass too. After all, traffic kills thousands of people every year and where's the mediacircus about that subject? Nowhere. Why? Nobody's going thru any trouble to try to hype that one. It's simply not newsworthy anymore.

    October 28, 2009 at 12:18 pm | Reply

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