Home > Anti-Vaccine Watch > If they get confused over the word “pandemic” how much can you really trust their advice?

If they get confused over the word “pandemic” how much can you really trust their advice?

As we all know, when the 2009 H1N1 (swine flu) influenza started spreading across the globe,  a lot of preparation took place to stop it from spreading, yet it still did. The World Health Organization declared it a pandemic in June 11, 2009. Luckily, the toll in human lives of this pandemic was quite mild, given our worst expectations. That is a good thing, especially for the anti-vaccine advocates who have jumped at the opportunity to blame anyone and everyone involved in the preparation and prevention efforts of fear mongering. “You told us a lot of people could get sick and die; that didn’t happen therefore you lied to us, to fill your pockets with cash”  is how the general argument goes. The words may not be the exact ones you’ll hear, but that is the sentiment in a nut shell.

Here is what Meryl Dorey, head of the no-longer-a-charity Australian Vaccination Network tweeted recently:

The link she provides takes you to this web page. Clearly, Dorey agrees with the article, otherwise she wouldn’t have linked to it as she did. Thus, she must agree with the following from the article:

Our health officials still insist on describing the swine flu (H1N1) as a pandemic – even though the UK’s health supremo admitted this week that just 70 people died from the infection, forgetting that he had predicted 750,000 deaths.

Of course, swine flu was never a pandemic even though the World Health Organization (WHO) classified it as such in 2009, and regulators and researchers the world over have perpetuated the myth.

Before the pandemic classification, drug companies had got purchase agreements out of governments around the world that were triggered the moment a pandemic was announced.  GlaxoSmithKline made $698m in extra sales from its Pandemrix swine-flu shot alone.

Let us distill the above “argument” so we can analyze it and see if it is a good argument or nonsense. Basically they, and Dorey by endorsement, are saying that because number of deaths from swine flu was low, this was not a pandemic, and also throw in the “Big Pharma made money” line to imply that the reason the WHO declared the 2009 H1N1 as a pandemic was to increase profits for Big Pharma. That money argument is so baseless in and of itself that doesn’t deserve to be addressed. Anyone willing to start and end the conversation at “someone made money therefore we were lied to” is immune (pun intended) to reason and logic.

In order to see through the incredibly ridiculous argument that Dorey & Friends are making, we need to understand what a pandemic is. What does it mean for a disease to “go pandemic”? The answer is simple: pandemic refers to an infectious disease that has spread a lot, geographically. So you need two components to have a pandemic: 1) an infectious disease, which swine flu is, that 2) has spread to a lot of countries/continents, which swine flu did.

Pandemic does not refer to numbers of people infected, number of deaths, or the rate at which the disease kills. It refers to how widespread geographically the disease becomes. That’s it. You don’t have to believe me. Here (page 11) is the table of the six phases of a pandemic, as defined by the WHO.


It is clear to anyone who can, and is willing, to read and comprehend the English language that pandemic refers to geographical spread of the disease and has nothing to do with mortality. Nowhere in that table is mortality mentioned. It simply is not part of the equation, so far as the definition of the word pandemic is concerned.

Which brings us to the question: Why then are the anti-vaccine advocates pretending that there was no pandemic? There are only a few reasons this would happen that I can think of:

  1. They are ignorant of the meaning of the word “pandemic”
  2. They have no research skills, and are unable to do a Google search to find out the meaning of the word “pandemic”
  3. They are fully aware of the meaning of the word “pandemic” but still make the bad argument, while knowing it to be without merit, which is a questionable practice to say the least
  4. They could care less about the facts and will say anything their agenda demands
  5. A combination of the above

Regardless of the reason why they got it so wrong, how much trust can we have in them if they cannot even get these simple things right? How can we rely on them to provide us with real, true information for more complex issues, if they screw up so bad with simple ones? The only way, the anti-vaccine front can say that the 2009 H1N1 pandemic was not a pandemic is by showing evidence that it didn’t spread worldwide and was contained within two countries in one WHO region. They cannot do that; the facts are not on their side. As of the last count, the 2009 H1N1 had spread to more than 214 countries worldwide.

The conspiracy article Dorey gladly and mindlessly linked to ends up with this:

Pandemic – or egg on face?

Pandemic; and egg on the anti-vaxxers face.

  1. reasonablehank
    October 30, 2010 at 9:10 PM

    Mrs Dorey appears to have irreconcilable difficulties by using mortality as a measure for everything. She doesn’t get it. She never will.

    • Skepdude
      October 30, 2010 at 9:14 PM

      Honestly many times I wonder: Does she not get it, or does she refuse to get it?

  2. Paul Gallagher
    October 30, 2010 at 9:41 PM

    3 for the bullies of the antivax movement and 5 for the ducklings in their wake.
    The geographic aspect was pointed out, but immediately fobbed off as largely irrelevant in that worst case scenarios didn’t eventuate – something WHO *obviously* always knew you see – thus fear mongering for profit was still valid.
    If countered with arguments on containment and preparation efficacy, austere journals such as The Daily Telegraph/Herald Sun were trotted out, listing purchased vs used vaccine.
    Which led to Meryl’s free range brain inventing the dastardly scheme that “past use by date” vaccines were used earlier this year.

  3. Hal Skender
    March 13, 2013 at 2:42 AM

    Swine influenza (also called swine flu, or pig flu) is an infection by any one of several types of swine influenza virus. Swine influenza virus (SIV) is any strain of the influenza family of viruses that is endemic in pigs. As of 2009, the known SIV strains include influenza C and the subtypes of influenza A known as H1N1, H1N2, H3N1, H3N2, and H2N3.”

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