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Institute defends swine flu response

Published söndag 30 januari 2011 kl 15.42
Over 70% of Swedes were vaccinated agains swine flu during the first winter. Photo: Tobias Röstlund/Scanpix

The EU countries overreacted to the Swine Flu alarm, and gave a "disproportionate" response, according to the European Parliament's Public Health Committee. But the Swedish Institute for Communicable Diseases dismisses the criticism.

"The allow themselves the luxury of hindsight," Johan Carlsson, the institute's general director, tells the news agency TT. He does not think that they would react any differently if it were to happen again.

Earlier this week, the Public Health Committee of the EU parliament adopted a resolution where it accuses the World Health Organisation (WHO), the pharmaceutical industry and individual health departments in membership countries, of blowing the response to the spread of Swine Flu out of all proportions, and thereby spreading unnecessary panic.

The committee points out that, by April 2010 the Swine Flu virus H1N1 had caused 2,900 deaths in Europe, and compare it with 40,000 for seasonal flu in a "moderate year". It also notes that the death toll was more or less the same in EU countries affected by the flu, irrespective if people of that country were inoculated or not.

But Johan Carlsson says "We can't just not vaccinate and let people die. At a certain point you have to decide, and fundamentally, I believe that we would have treated this issue the same way if it happened again."

In the resolution, which was adopted with 58 votes against 2, the European Parliament's Health committee calls for a better co-ordination between EU countries in their response to a flu crisis. It also wants more transparency in that the names of experts who advise European health authorities should be published. In addition it wants the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control to work more independently from the WHO. It also calls for the WHO to review its definition of a "pandemic" to consider the severity of an illness, and not only the spread of a virus.

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