Sunday, 28 November 2010

Cost of swine flu "pandemic" - socalled. £1.2bn

Sorry for being late in posting this. For posterity, as so many of us publicly warned the authorities not to go down this route but they did, I think it is important to remember the cost of this fiasco. It is also illustrative to see what very much looks like a whitewash when what the public needed was an honest account of what the Labour Government and their medical advisors at the time did wrong and how many people suffered as a result.

Swine flu pandemic cost UK £1.2bn

Dame Deirdre Hine discusses the report into the UK's response to the swine flu pandemic

The swine flu pandemic cost Britain more than £1.2 billion despite being much less severe than feared, a Government-commissioned review has found.

Warnings that 65,000 people in the UK could die in a worst-case scenario proved far too pessimistic - and the actual death toll during the outbreak was 457.

An inquiry into the handling of the emergency concluded that the Government's response was "proportionate and effective". [Comment: Well they would say that wouldn't they?]

But it criticised the restrictive contracts with drug companies which have left a stockpile of over 20 million unused doses of swine flu vaccines for England alone. The review revealed that Britain spent £654 million preparing for a possible flu pandemic, and £587 million responding to last year's H1N1 outbreak - a total of £1.24 billion. This included £1.01 billion on drugs, among them anti-virals, vaccines and antibiotics, as well as £115.4 million on items like face masks and respirators.

Critics questioned why the bill for tackling the pandemic was so large, with one describing Britain's response as a "hugely expensive farce". But Dame Deirdre Hine, a former chief medical officer for Wales who led the review, defended the cost. "I think we have got to set these figures, which seem enormous, against the potential for saving lives," she told reporters. "It is fairly clear that there probably were lives saved of very young people, young children and so on." [Comment: let's have the evidence, and also the stats for those who died and those injured by the vaccine]

After the H1N1 outbreak in April last year, the Government made plans to buy up to 132 million doses of swine flu vaccine, enough to give everyone in the UK two doses. But the contracts it signed with drug manufacturers GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Baxter were too inflexible, the review found. Baxter agreed to a "break clause" allowing the Government to cancel its order for some of the doses but GSK refused.

The Department of Health said it ordered 90 million vaccine doses from GSK, of which it eventually agreed to take 34.8 million. It also placed an order for 36 million doses with Baxter, 9.2 million of which were purchased before the contract was cancelled. About 4.88 million doses of the vaccine were given to people in England in priority groups such as pregnant women and sufferers of asthma, diabetes and heart disease.

The Department of Health said it still held just over 20 million doses of swine flu vaccine for England, with shelf lives that run out by October 2011. Dame Deirdre's review team said commercial confidentiality prevented them from revealing how much money would have been saved if the Government's vaccine contracts had included break clauses. But their report said: "The lack of such a clause in the advance purchase agreements for both contracts consequently exposed the Exchequer to some risk."

Mark Wallace, campaign director of the TaxPayers' Alliance, said: "The swine flu response has proved to be a hugely expensive farce. Serious questions must be asked about why so much was spent on combating a threat that turned out not to be very serious. It's unacceptable to hide the details of this massive bill behind the excuse of commercial confidentiality. We need full details and full answers about this scandalous waste of money."

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