I went to the doctors this morning because of an irritating bad chest I’ve had for weeks and while I was there I asked him about the swine flu vaccinations and whether they have a list of at-risk patients already (#2 has a heart condition so I’m naturally interested to know). He said they do have a list of people who are high risk, #2 is low risk with his heart condition as it’s not chronic but as a young child he’ll be one of the first to be offered the vaccine.
Interestingly and perhaps a little unsurprisingly, he said they were being inundated with calls about swine flu and the majority of the calls were from people anxious about swine flu or convinced they had it when they didn’t. This is presumably why I got an engaged tone for 15 minutes this morning trying to get an appointment. Does it help that the British government has told the general public that up to 65k people could die from swine flu? In his opinion it wasn’t the best move, let’s just leave it at that.
The thing is, for the amount of people who have contracted swine flu, the number of deaths has been low. Lower than you would expect with seasonal flu. Yes, swine flu is spreading round the population faster than seasonal flu but that’s because we don’t have an immunity to it. Having said that, Europeans seem to have a better natural defence to swine flu than Americans which would suggest that it may be something we’ve had here before. Tens of thousands of people already have immunity to swine flu by virtue of having contracted it in the last couple of months. By the end of the year, if all goes to plan, the whole population will be offered a vaccine.
So why the panic? Why are the NHS (or, more properly, the British government) putting out information that’s causing panic? We’re in an era of unprecedented access to information, it’s possible to lay your hands on more information about virtually anything from your living room than ever before. This is the first major domestic public health problem we’ve had since most of the population got access to Google so perhaps the British government is thinking that the best way to satisfy peoples’ thirst for information is to give it to them, warts and all. Or perhaps not …
There is a theory (you might call it a conspiracy theory) which quite a few people have arrived at that the Prime Mentalist is behind this. Not that he has unleashed a swine flu virus created in a secret laboratory in a disused tube station (although I bet you could find someone who thinks that) but that he has presided over mismanagement of the epidemic to give him a crisis that he can use to increase his popularity and stop talk of an election. How could we have an election in the middle of a swine flu pandemic? Think of the public health risks. Think of the disruption when we’re in the middle of a potentially disasterous flu epidemic. How could you call an election under such circumstances and claim to have the interests of the country at heart?
And, of course, there is the vaccine. The UK is the only country in the world to order enough vaccine for the whole population. If and when the vaccine materialises – and assuming it doesn’t kill more people than swine flu does like the vaccine the Americans used in 1976 – then El Gordo will have been the Prime Minister that saved us all from the killer flu that would have killed up to 65k people but for his intervention.
The theory that he has allowed swine flu to take hold and spread scare stories in the media just so he can avoid an election and look good when it fails to wipe out half the population hinges on whether El Gordo’s insanity is so pronounced that he would sacrifice the lives of hundreds of people for personal gain. I’m quite prepared to believe that he would do it, the only question for me is whether he will get caught out.