We've been told by the World Health Organization (WHO) that the swine flu is a pandemic and spreading rampantly, with two billion people expected to contract the virus globally in the next two years. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the regular, garden-variety influenza claimed 24,000 lives during the last flu season. Yet, in what it is citing as a pandemic, WHO has attributed the swine flu with 700 to 800 deaths worldwide to date (as of Common Ground's press date July 29). Pandemic? It's difficult to understand the logic until one pays attention to the underlying motives.

Who stands to gain from the H1N1 virus? Well, some researchers are raising questions. Dr. Tom Jefferson in the UK claims that the search for a vaccine is driven by vested interests, including academics, governments, the WHO and drug companies, who all stand to gain. "By declaring pandemic, they've pushed the button on this juggernaut that they've created and, of course, antivirals are a part of that and vaccines are part of that and the whole panoply is part of that. Let's act with a little bit of caution and common sense and let's look at the evidence, the hard evidence," Jefferson says.

Even WHO's assistant director-general Keiji Fukuda cautions against rushing vaccine production too soon. "There are certain things which cannot be compromised. And one of the things, which cannot be compromised, is the safety of vaccines. There can't be any questions whether the vaccine is safe or not," Fukuda explains.

Pharmaceutical companies in the business of making swine flu vaccines include Baxter International, Sanofi-Aventis SA, Novartis, and GlaxoSmithKline. Jefferson notes that Glaxo will be charging about $6 per dose while it costs the company about $1 per dose to produce the vaccine. That's a nice profit for the drug giant. When asked to comment about its profit margins, a Glaxco representative noted the company "did not recognize the figures."

Nothing drives Pharma better than profit. Leading UK virologist Professor John Oxford has stated quite succinctly that, in the past, the production of flu vaccines have been highly unprofitable and most companies producing such vaccines pulled out of the US a long time ago. But it looks like for Pharma, the H1N1 virus is turning out to be a real pig for profit.

GlaxoSmithKline is currently reporting a 14 percent increase in its value of vaccine sales, including a worldwide order of 195 million doses of its pandemic flu vaccine. And here in Canada, our government has a contract with GlaxoSmithKline to purchase the vaccine. Interestingly, Glaxo owns a flu vaccine plant in Ste. Foy, Quebec, reportedly capable of producing 3.5 million to four million doses every week. A recent CBC report states that the federal government has already purchased 50 million doses of TamiFlu, which may or may not be of any benefit.

In the US, the National Biodefense Safety Board has recommended that the pandemic swine flu vaccine should be fast-tracked, with vaccinations starting in mid-September - soon after schools open. But as senior medical writer Daniel J. DeNoon from WebMD Health News has noted, "Getting swine flu vaccine by September means skipping all but the most preliminary clinical tests of vaccine safety and effectiveness."

Washington, D.C.-based investigative journalist, author, and syndicated columnist Wayne Madsen notes, "In addition to the money to be made from the vaccines that will be rushed to market without adequate safety trials this fall, GlaxoSmithKline, which manufactures Relenza, and Roche, which manufactures Tamiflu, are already raking in the money and will make billions more as orders for these two antivirals continue to come in from around the world."

While Big Pharma rushes to produce a vaccine, according to some health experts, soap and water may be just as effective in preventing the disease. But that's not great news for the pharmaceutical giants. Soap and water aren't going to make them any money. They would much rather you succumb to the threat of death from this so-called pandemic and line up for your shot.


Data Set of the Day: Swine flu vs the regular flu

Center for Disease Control and Prevention

Fight Flu

World Health Officials Say Two Billion People May Contract Swine Flu

Vaccine Risk Awareness Network