Op-Ed: 2009 in Review – Public Information and Awareness, Transparency are Indispensable to H1N1 Fight

As 2009 comes to a close, an estimated 60 million Americans have been vaccinated for H1N1. This represents a remarkable achievement.

Despite waning H1N1 infection rates in the U.S., recent surveys show that half of all Americans desire the vaccine. While HHS handling of the H1N1 pandemic has drawn criticism, overall public awareness has been an underreported success.

In April, when little was known about the H1N1 virus, American public reaction was swift, if irrational. As one news account described it…

Travel to Mexico fell dramatically, pork-belly futures collapsed, and protective masks flew off the shelves. Mexico City virtually shut down

Whether motivated by fear or caution, market signals are indicative of public interest in H1N1. Business journalists reported triple (and double) digit gains in sales of hand sanitizers, cough/cold/allergy medications, analgesics, and spray disinfectants, reversing downward trending in these products due to the recession.

American public perceptions of H1N1 vaccine safety were apparently influenced by memories of the flawed experiences with swine flu vaccine in 1976, and Guillain-Barré syndrome. Medical research notwithstanding, widespread distrust of H1N1 vaccine safety unfortunately persists. When news media were granted inside access to sensitive vaccine plants, subsequent reporting probably has served to reduce public concerns.

CDC and HHS blended traditional and Internet media to provide a regularized flow of information to the public. However, HHS came under sharp criticism when initial vaccine deliveries fell far short of projections. Long queues of American families waiting for scarce vaccines were striking visuals broadcasted around the world. School vaccinations also had controversial optics, but worked well in retrospect.

H1N1 continues to make news. The World Health Organization reports that the virus is circulating at elevated levels in parts of central and southern Asia. Recent H1N1 vaccine product recalls suggest the shelf-life of vaccines bears watching.

We can not forget the 10,000 American lives lost to H1N1. With safe vaccines, transparent mechanisms, and effective public information and awareness campaigns, we will not lose more lives. Best Wishes for the New Year !

Print Free Coupons

Crain’s NY Business: Public reaction to H1N1 boosts some retail sales
LA Times: More H1N1 vaccine is recalled
LA Times: Twitter trackers follow public reaction to swine flu
MSNBC: 5 reasons the H1N1 flu is actually good for us
MSNBC: 60 million in U.S. vaccinated against swine flu
Reuters: Flu pandemic may change US flu approach forever
WHO: Pandemic (H1N1) 2009 – update 81

Be Sociable, Share!

2 Trackbacks

  1. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Influenza Monitor, Influenza Monitor. Influenza Monitor said: Op-Ed: 2009 in Review – Public Information and Awareness, Transparency are Indispensible to H1N1 Fight: A.. http://bit.ly/5Zh9Iv […]

  2. […] Op-Ed: 2009 in Review Influenza Monitor Thu Dec 31, 2009 11:40pm EST […]