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From Eileen Dannemann []

WHO has published a formal response on its website to many of the criticisms published in the BMJ and by the Council of Europe last week.

A few important points:

1.  WHO appears to acknowledge lack of disclosure of conflicts of interest by experts involved in its 2004 pandemic plan.

2.  WHO wiggles around the issue of pandemic severity, which was dropped from WHO's official definition of a pandemic, stating:

    WHO regards severity as an important feature of pandemics and a critical factor when deciding on which actions to take. However, WHO has not required a set level of severity as part of its criteria for declaring a pandemic.

As I noted earlier, the current definition encompasses any new common cold virus that leads to colds in disparate parts of the world.  Such a definition is entirely useless to public health efforts.  The process by which WHO experts came up with such an odd definition should be explored.

3.  Part of WHO's justification for declaring swine flu a pandemic included the following:

    The new H1N1 virus rapidly crowded out other circulating influenza viruses and appears to have displaced the older H1N1 virus. This phenomenon is distinctly seen during pandemics.

Agreed.  But then why was it recommended that citizens should receive both trivalent seasonal flu vaccine and swine flu vaccine?

There was virtually no circulation of seasonal flu strains (particularly the 3 strains for which the seasonal vaccine offered protection) yet vaccination with it was highly encouraged, to the point that more seasonal flu vaccine was used in the US last year than in any other flu season.  From CDC:

    As of January 21, 2010, the predominant influenza virus in circulation is the 2009 H1N1 virus. More than 99% of all 2009 H1N1 viruses tested have been similar to the virus in the current 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Very few seasonal influenza viruses have been isolated and analyzed at CDC. For updated information about what viruses are circulating, visit FluView. CDC continues to recommend seasonal influenza vaccination to protect against seasonal influenza illness... 

Furthermore, several Canadian studies suggested that receiving seasonal flu vaccine roughly doubled the risk of developing a swine flu infection.  Then why take chances with the seasonal shot when only swine flu is circulating?

If WHO and national public health officials were cognizant of how pandemics rapidly crowd out other flu strains, and closely observed this taking place, why was so much effort put into convincing people to get a useless seasonal flu shot last season?  Why did CDC encourage hospitals (and states) to require seasonal flu shots for their employees last season, when CDC knew that less than 1% of flu strains would respond to the vaccine? 

Yet mandatory flu shots are "gaining traction" in spite of persistent questions as to whether they actually help prevent flu and flu deaths in the elderly and in hospitalized patients.
Meryl Nass, MD
Mount Desert Island Hospital
Bar Harbor, Maine 04609
W  207 288-5081 ext. 1220
C   207 522-5229
H   207 244-9165
pager 207 818-0708


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