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.
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.
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.
Godlee says that researchers updating their Cochrane review of the drug “failedto verify claims, based on an analysis of 10 drug company trials,that oseltamivir reduced the risk of complications in healthyadults with influenza. These claims have formed a key part ofdecisions to stockpile the drug and make it widely available.”
Only after Roche was questioned by the BMJ and Channel 4 Newsdid the manufacturer commit to making “full study reports”available. Godlee says that some questions remain, including how patients were recruitedand 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.”
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.”
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.
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.