Squeamish Feds Learn From 1976 Swine Flu Debacle

Panic and Gerald Ford caused hundreds to receive unnecessary shot
By Wesley Oliver,  Newser Staff
Posted May 8, 2009 2:00 PM CDT
In the fall of 1976, dozens of Americans died within 48 hours of receiving a swine flu vaccine.   (AP Photo, File)
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(Newser) – Federal health officials are hoping to avoid a catastrophic case of déjà vu as they develop plans to inoculate Americans against swine flu, the Washington Post reports. A vaccine released during the 1976 flu outbreak left dozens dead and hundreds reporting serious side effects like blindness and paralysis. Now, haunted officials say they’re learning lessons from the past.

The feds overreacted and concealed the vaccine’s risks, investigators say. As Americans panicked, officials rushed production and field-testing of the vaccine, which President Ford received in front of cameras. But even after the threat dissipated, shots remained in circulation, and watchdogs now fear a repeat with the post-9/11 loosening of vaccine laws. “Disclose the risks,” advised one doctor.