Tag Archives: swine flu

Lack of vaccination, awareness worsen UK flu season

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The Guardian‘s Denis Campbell and Sarah Boseley report that a drop in vaccination rates and a lack of public awareness has made this flu season worse than it should have been, and that there is potential for the NHS to be “inundated” with flu cases. The story has spread quickly in the UK, and may be providing just the sort of public awareness campaign that the reporters found was previously lacking.

Professor Steve Field, who until last month was the chairman of the Royal College of General Practitioners, spoke out as the Department of Health revealed there are more than 300 people in critical care beds with flu and 17 people have died.
Field said the decision not to encourage the public to have a jab to protect themselves was “ill-advised” and needed to be urgently reversed.
The NHS should have acted more decisively to encourage people to have the jab because it was known that H1N1 swine flu was still circulating and that few NHS staff had the swine flu vaccine when it was offered to them late last year.

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Canadian workshop examines H1N1 coverage

Pia Christensen

About Pia Christensen

Pia Christensen (@AHCJ_Pia) is the managing editor/online services for AHCJ. She manages the content and development of healthjournalism.org, coordinates AHCJ's social media efforts and edits and manages production of association guides, programs and newsletters.

The H1N1 pandemic was a unique event, with developments unfolding quickly, leading to communication problems about the crisis, according to a speaker at a workshop in Montreal last week.

The Concordian, the student newspaper at Concordia University in Montreal, reports that the university’s departments of journalism and exercise science hosted a workshop on “Politics of Health Information: Reflections on a Pandemic.”

Dr. Simon Bacon, from Concordia’s department of exercise science, participated in the 2nd Annual Health Communication Workshop and said, “This was something that happens very rarely and it was going so fast that there were communication problems between each level.”

A report on how to improve communication between scientists and journalists is expected to be completed and posted online in about two months.

BMJ wants raw data for all drug trials to be shared

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

Under the headline “We want raw data, now,” BMJ editor Fiona Godlee recounts the story of how BMJ had to pressure a drug company into releasing full study reports verifying their claims as to the effectiveness of oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

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Tamiflu. Photo by Richard Sunderland via Flickr.

Godlee says that researchers updating their Cochrane review of the drug “failed to verify claims, based on an analysis of 10 drug company trials, that oseltamivir reduced the risk of complications in healthy adults with influenza. These claims have formed a key part of decisions to stockpile the drug and make it widely available.”

Only after Roche was questioned by the BMJ and Channel 4 News did the manufacturer commit to making “full study reports” available. Godlee says that some questions remain, including how patients were recruited and why some neuropsychiatric adverse events were not reported.

Godlee argues that “it can’t be right that the public should have to rely on detective work by academics and journalists to patch together the evidence for such a widely prescribed drug,” saying that “Individual patient data from all trials of drugs should be readily available for scientific scrutiny.”

GAO: Flu-fighting plan needs better measures

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

The United States Government Accountability Office today released the catchily titled “Monitoring and Assessing the Status of the National Pandemic Implementation Plan Needs Improvement” report. See the highlights here.

It does not specifically address the response to the H1N1 pandemic but instead reviews compliance with the Homeland Security Council’s 2006 “Implementation Plan for the National Strategy for Pandemic Influenza.” The GAO analyzed 60 randomly selected action items from the 324 recommended in the report and sought to measure both how the completion of those items was monitored and how many had actually been completed.

The GAO found that while the Homeland Security Council had reported that the majority of the action items were complete in 2008, it was “difficult to determine the actual status of some of the 49 designated as complete.” To rectify this, the GAO recommended that “future progress reports would benefit from using measures of performance that are more consistent with the action items’ descriptions.”

Corporate clinics scored scarce H1N1 shots

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

USA Today‘s Alison Young reviewed state H1N1 vaccine distribution information from Florida, Texas and Georgia, finding that “When the swine flu vaccine was most scarce, health officials gave thousands of doses to corporate clinics at Walt Disney World, Toyota, defense contractors, oil companies and cruise lines.”

Young is working on getting the same data for New York and California. The officials Young talked to stressed that they were doing their best to distribute vaccines fairly, but Young quoted legislators and activists who questioned state health department’s ability to ensure that, once vaccines were given to corporations, they were delivered to the folks who needed them most.

Fluportal.org stays on top of H1N1

Andrew Van Dam

About Andrew Van Dam

Andrew Van Dam of The Wall Street Journal previously worked at the AHCJ offices while earning his master’s degree at the Missouri School of Journalism.

While H1N1 seems to have peaked in many states – at least for now – Fluportal.org‘s resources to cover the pandemic are still growing. Recent highlights include tips for using American Public Media’s Public Insight Network (which we’ve mentioned before in conjunction with a ProPublica story on health care reform), a few interesting photos with creative commons licenses (like a collection of H1N1 street art).

streetpig
One of the creative commons licensed shots of H1N1 street art spotlighted by fluportal.org. Photo by Brazilian artist guitavares via Flickr.

Fluportal also has tackled some media ethics issues related to the outbreak, notably in a post where staff from PRI’s The World had to consider how to frame the German medical establishment’s reluctance to recommend the H1N1 vaccine. After all, they did not want to confuse listeners or have a negative impact on public health, but they also weren’t going to “censor” the sincere opinions of German doctors, even if they conflicted with CDC advice.

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Public broadcasters have H1N1 site for journalists