Wednesday, April 14, 2010

We blundered over swine flu, admit health chiefs

Global health chiefs have finally admitted that they may have overreacted to the swine flu 'pandemic' - landing governments with millions of unused vaccines.

The World Health Organisation has conceded that it may have been guilty of failing to communicate 'uncertainties' about how virulent the new virus was.

Critics say the UN agency was too quick to designate the influenza a pandemic in June after it spread from Mexico.

Keiji Fukuda, its top influenza expert, yesterday admitted a six-phase system for declaring this was confusing and the bug was not actually as deadly as bird flu.

'The reality is there is a huge amount of uncertainty (in a pandemic),' he said.

'I think we did not convey the uncertainty. That was interpreted by many as a non-transparent process.'

He admitted the scale may be flawed as it takes into account the geographic spread of a virus but not its severity.

'Confusion about phases and level of severity remains a very vexing issue,' added Mr Fukuda.

He was addressing a meeting of experts reviewing the WHO's handling of the first influenza pandemic in 40 years.

Last week it emerged Britain wasted up to £300million on vaccines that will never be used.

H1N1 has killed 17,770 people in 213 countries, the WHO says.

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