Health officials exam 2009 H1N1 pandemic

Two internationally known health officials recently gave their insights into the global response to the 2009 H1N1 pandemic.

Dr. Gabriel Leung, of Hong Kong's Food and Health Bureau, and Dr Angus Nicoll, of the European Center for Disease Prevention and Control in Stockholm, spoke abut an essay they wrote that recently appeared in the Public Library of Science Medicine, CIDRAP News reports.

Leung and Nicoll’s review covered the first 12 months of the pandemic response. The pair told CIDRAP News that, overall, good decisions were made based on what was known about the outbreak in its early days. They also said that several important lessons were learned too.

One lesson learned, they said, was the need for more flexible pandemic plans. Another need that became evident as the pandemic spread was the need to more clearly communicate the risks.

The authors gave mixed reviews to the pandemic vaccine, saying that it was a scientific success that arrived too late and in too short of a supply to lessen the second pandemic wave in the northern hemisphere, CIDRAP News reports.

Some critics have questioned expenditures for what may have later appeared to be excessive amounts of vaccine. The authors said that when health officials placed their orders they didn't expect the later finding that a single dose rather than multiple doses was immunogenic in all but the youngest children.

“Hindsight always gives perfect vision and using post-hoc information to evaluate prior decisions at best confuses and often produces unfair conclusions,” Leung told CIDRAP News.

The authors recommended the creation of a clinical research infrastructure to help speed the collection and sharing of clinical data during the next flu pandemic. They also suggested surveillance systems to help gauge the true threat of the flu and the development of new tools for treating severe flu infections.