In 2009, the swine flu pandemic swept across the world. Everybody panicked and once vaccines became available, people jumped at the opportunity to take them to inoculate themselves from contracting the virus. However, in the seven years since, it has come to light that declaring the swine flu a ‘pandemic’ was questionable at best. What was once considered a legitimate health threat, backed up by increasing death tolls that incited panic, is now considered a relatively ‘mild’ strain of the flu. Given how much the scare was amplified by the reactions of governing bodies as well as the population in general, there are important lessons that can be learned from this ‘pandemic’ in order to be better prepared for the next one.
If you’re interested in a career that involves pharmaceutical quality assurance, learning about the swine flu ‘pandemic’ can help you truly understand the various aspects of responding to any such outbreak.
1. Students in Quality Assurance Courses Know the Importance of Ethics
One of the most important lessons to learn from the swine flu ‘pandemic’ is how vital transparency and ethics are to proper treatments and responses. In 2004, many governments were scared that a pandemic was coming as a result of ‘bird flu,’ so they took measures to deal with it in advance. To help ensure that vaccines could be developed and produced quickly, they created contracts with pharmaceutical companies to manufacture vaccines. These contracts could be activated in the case of a pandemic. Now, professionals working in pharmaceutical quality assurance might know that once the World Health Organization (WHO) declares a pandemic, these contracts become binding and pharmaceutical companies need to quickly manufacture the vaccines needed.
Once the swine flu panic had calmed down, it came to light that one British scientist, Sir Roy Anderson, was both advising the government on the swine flu outbreak and sitting on the board of a major pharmaceutical company that earned profits from the pandemic. Students completing their studies in pharmaceutical quality assurance know that this kind of conflict of interest can be problematic, and is best to be avoided.
2. Grads of Quality Control Courses Know When Reactions Are Excessive
Sometimes, pandemics inspire panic that overwhelms the health care system and the government enough that they are forced to take drastic action to quell the fear of the population. For example, students who take quality assurance courses might know that the response in Canada (just like the rest of the world) was much stronger than it needed to be. In fact, Health Canada was prepared for anywhere from a sixth to a third of the population to contract swine flu, with up to 138,000 needing to be sent to the hospital. They expected deaths that numbered in the thousands. In the end, swine flu caused approximately the same number of hospitalizations and deaths as a regular flu season.
3. Going Forward, this Type of Pandemic Can Be Prevented
One of the most important lessons that can be taken from this swine flu ‘pandemic’ is that similar situations can be prevented in the future. It would take proper coordination between different health agencies like the WHO and the CDC, as well as more accurate and reliable data for professionals to work with. For example, the WHO announced there had been 18,000 deaths from swine flu; however, only 10,000 of those were confirmed to be directly related to the virus. Better data could help prevent these types of overreactions in the future.
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