H1N1 (photo: CDC)
With plush swine-flu toys stocked on its gift-shop shelves, citizens earning $50 to attend forums on the virus and an additional $50 for those willing to take a vaccine, it’s a $16 million swine-flu shot bonanza hosted by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
As part of a massive public relations and research campaign, the CDC has been hosting as many as 10 swine flu forums in nine U.S. cities before Labor Day – and it is shelling out as much as $50,000 for a program that pays citizens $50 when they register early and attend the events.
CDC pays forum attendees
The city of Somerville, Mass., announced it has been selected as one of the 10 national sites. Its full-day “H1N1 vaccination strategy and information session” will take place this Saturday and is open to 100 residents who register. Each participant will also receive a continental breakfast, lunch and snacks. For those who don’t speak English, the events provide interpretation in Spanish, Portuguese and Haitian Creole.
According to an announcement, the sessions are designed to “help state and local health organizations develop a voluntary fall vaccination program for the H1N1 flu virus.” Workshops will focus on the following questions:
- Should the CDC create a mass vaccination program against H1N1?
- What are the particulars of a mass vaccination program?
- How does the federal prioritization guidance (developed for all scenarios) apply in light of this real outbreak? If there are elements that don’t apply, what’s different and why?
- Are there particular/unique strategies that this pandemic will require?
The CDC is presenting a video on the flu at each of the public meetings. Forums have taken place in the following U.S. cities: Denver, Colo.; Lincoln, Neb.; Birmingham, Ala.; Vincennes, Ind.; Sacramento, Calif.; El Paso, Texas; New York, N.Y.; and Bucks County, Pa. Registration is still open for the Aug 29 Spokane, Wash., event.
A Keystone Center bulletin for the event states, “The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and state and local health partners are developing plans for the vaccination program. A public dilemma being faced is whether the U.S. should adopt a full-throttle, go slow, or intermediate intensity program.”
The CDC video presented at each of the events discusses influenza viruses and death tolls resulting from pandemics, including the “Spanish” influenza of 1918, “Asian” influenza of 1957 and the “Hong Kong” influenza of 1968.
“Even after years of studying the virus, we cannot predict when a pandemic will occur or the impact a pandemic will have,” said Dr. Beth Bell, the CDC’s associate director for science at the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, in the video. “… The virus appears to have originated in Mexico sometime early in 2009. The virus spread very rapidly and caused widespread illness and deaths in Mexico. The virus has also spread rapidly in the United States. By June 19, infection with the new virus had been reported by all 50 states in the United States, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The virus has subsequently spread throughout the world.”
Bell declares, “More than 43,000 laboratory-confirmed cases have been reported in the U.S.” as of July 24 and “a million infections probably have already occurred.” The total, she claims, is an “underestimate” of cases.
The CDC is also hosting an “H1N1 Public Engagement WebDialogue” this month. One of the 2-day sessions began today and will continue through tomorrow. A second session will take place on Aug. 31 and Sept. 1.
CDC sells swine-flu toy
In addition to hosting forums to spread its H1N1 message, the CDC’s headquarters in Atlanta is also selling a stuffed swine-flu toy in its gift shop, according to Atlanta’s WXIA 11 News. The pink toy is intended to look like a microbe and also resembles a pig snout.
GIANTmicrobes, the company that markets and sells the giant swine flu microbes for $7.95, also provides an information booklet about the H1N1 virus with the stuffed toy.
Photo of “swine flu” toy posted on Twitter
Several readers provided the following reactions to the Atlanta news story about the swine-flu toy at CDC headquarters:
- Your tax dollars at work … health care reform? Next thing on the shelf will be fuzzy replicas of Tamaflu and Tylenol. Mommy! I want those for Christmas!
- What a bizarre sense of humor the CDC has.
- I’d really hate to see what the HIV toy looks like. Ugh. Bad taste.
- That’s twisted, “Here’s what is killing you, Billy. Isn’t it cute?”
‘Guinea pigs’ earn cash for taking shot
Meanwhile, ABC News reported researchers are in a race to test the H1N1 vaccines on at least 3,000 paid volunteers – half adults and half children – before flu season this year. In eight hospitals across the nation, volunteers are receiving a series of injections to determine how much vaccine and how many shots each person will be recommended to have.
According to the ABC News report, the volunteers may “risk fever, allergic reactions and a remote chance of paralysis and even death.”
Dr. Lisa Jackson, principal researcher who’s heading trials at Group Health Cooperative in Seattle, told MSNBC nearly 1,100 people flooded phone lines within two days after the request for volunteers.
According to the report, each person will receive $50 for each of the three or four visits they make to the clinics.
Sharon Frey, who is leading the government-funded testing at Saint Louis University, told the Associated Press scientists have been working late nights and weekends to organize studies and recruit volunteers.
“Typically it takes a year to do this,” Frey said. “I can tell you we’re working at breakneck speed.”
One advertisement appearing on Craigslist offers to pay between $300 and $475 per volunteer for participation in swine flu clinical trials.
Concerns about possible side effects
However, in a study conducted at the University of Hong Kong, the British Medical Journal reported that less than half of 8,500 doctors and nurses in public hospitals will accept vaccination against the swine flu – even following increases in the World Health Organization’s pandemic alert level.
The study revealed, “The major barriers identified were fear of side effects and doubts about efficacy.”
Nonetheless, federal authorities are preparing to launch a nationwide campaign to convince Americans to get the swine flu vaccine, the San Francisco Chronicle reported. Government officials have expressed concern that public demand for immunization will not be high enough.
“Many parents (in focus groups) expressed a lot of concerns about 2009 H1N1 vaccine. Those concerns were centered around the fact that it was new and it was being developed quickly,” said Kris Sheedy, a communications director with the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases. “There were comments such as ‘this is new and I don’t want my child to be a guinea pig.’”
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, the government will spend “about $16 million on outreach to convince people of the need to get the swine flu vaccine.”
As WND reported, alarmist language over possible outbreaks of swine flu as well as a series of moves by the federal government are fueling fears federal agents will soon be forcing citizens to be vaccinated – prompting the Constitution Party to launch a pre-emptive defense against any such effort.
The Constitution Party, a fast-growing alternative to the dominant Democratic and Republican parties in many elections, has come out strongly in opposition to any “mandatory injections” of “potential toxic (H1N1) ‘swine flu’ vaccine.”
Condemnation also has come from Rep. Ron Paul, R-Texas, who cited the swine flu vaccination program in 1976. The effort killed more than two dozen people – not from the flu but from the vaccine.
Paul said he was concerned that “nearly $8 billion will be spent to address a ‘potential pandemic flu’ which could result in mandatory vaccinations for no discernable reason other than to enrich the pharmaceutical companies that make the vaccine.”