Excerpts from an article in the National Post, detailing remarks by Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer and a top health officer in the province:
“In eastern Ontario where I live and work the outbreak is effectively over. If we’re immunizing people now essentially you’re barring the barn door after the horse is well out the farm gate.”
Dr. Schabas said outbreaks of the swine flu in populous parts of the country, including southwestern Ontario and British Columbia, are on the wane.
“I seriously question the continued focus on mass immunization, at least in those areas,” he said….
“If the ground is shifting under our feet, if the disease is happening sooner than we expected and we can’t immunize 25 or 30 million Canadians in an efficient manner before the outbreak, let’s ask the question very seriously: is it worth continuing with this? Because I think increasingly the answer is no,” said Dr. Schabas.
The hype and hysteria around the H1N1 pandemic, the millions of dollars spent so far on responding to it, and the dire warnings about it are all unwarranted, according to Dr. Schabas — who even questions the pandemic label.
[UPDATE Nov. 16: Canada’s chief public health officer said H1N1 is turning out to be less deadly than seasonal flu. Dr. David Butler-Jones told the National Post that between 2,000 to 8,000 Canadians die from the seasonal flu each year. So far, about 161 Canadians have died from H1N1.]
He [Dr. Schabas] spreads the blame among public health officials, governments and the media. The World Health Organization is jokingly referred to as the World Hysteria Organization, he said, and it set a tone in the spring with its messaging that was adopted around the globe.
“They’ve just been (champing) at the bit waiting for a pandemic for the last 10 years and I think they dramatically overreacted,” said Dr. Schabas.
UPDATE from CBC:
“It’s really not causing — and is not going to cause and nowhere has caused — significant levels of illness or death,” said Dr. Richard Schabas, Ontario’s former chief medical officer of health.
“But governments moved ahead regardless. They ramped up their response, spent a huge amount of money on vaccines and other things. I’m not sure the $1.5 billion includes the cost of new ventilators, the cost of Tamiflu stockpiles … the huge investment that’s been put into planning for what has ultimately turned out to be, from a pandemic perspective, a dud.”
Schabas is now the chief medical officer of health for Hastings and Prince Edward counties in eastern Ontario.
On Thursday, The Globe and Mail reported that Canada has so far spent $1.5 billion on the H1N1 vaccination campaign, twice as much as health officials had predicted. The H1N1 vaccine targets the strain of H1N1 influenza A virus causing the current swine flu pandemic.
Originally, it was estimated a single dose of the vaccine would cost $16. That cost has now risen to $30. The increasing cost is attributed in part to an unexpected surge in demand late last month.