We Heard the Bells: The Influenza of 1918
US Department of Health and Human Services (2010)
I began watching this film believing it was a historical account of the 1918 influenza epidemic. It’s not. It’s actually a 10-year old US government propaganda film promoting flu vaccination. It’s currently being recycled in honor of COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic has significantly ratcheted up the media hype over annual flu vaccination, which had never made much sense to me. Even the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) acknowledge the 2020 flu vaccine is only 45% effective (only 45% of people who receive it will be protected against influenza).
Ironically they call 2020 a good year – most years flu vaccine is even less effective
In people over 65 (the under most pressure to be vaccinated), the 2018-19 vaccine was only 16% effective.
In my view the vaccine’s low effectiveness needs to be weighed against potential side effects, which a growing body of research suggests can be considerable.
Recent studies suggest that flu vaccination can increase the risk of other viral (including coronavirus infections) in some patients.
On a positive note, the first half of the film contains some great archival footage of survivors of the 1918 pandemic. I found it interesting that most 1918 victims died of pneumonia caused by secondary bacterial infections (rather than viral pneumonia caused by influenza virus). Doctors reported a typical pattern in which patients appeared to totally recover after 5-7 days, when weakened defenses caused them to succumb to new bacterial or fungal infections.
A number of clinicians are reporting a similar pattern with COVID-19, with patients appearing to recover, and then suddenly worsening and dying. Prior to the development of antibiotics during World War II, there was no way to treat these secondary infections. However at present most are treatable with antibiotics and anti-fungal agents. A recent Lancet paper summarizing 99 cases of COVID-19 treated in Wuhan China in December 2019 indicates all patients were tested and treated for bacterial and fungal secondary infections.
Given the 24/7 coverage of the coronavirus pandemic, I find it a little disappointing the mainstream media offers so little information regarding treatment.
The 1918 influenza pandemic reportedly killed 50 million people globally and 675,000 in the US. In contrast to COVID-19, in 1918 the vast majority of deaths were in young adults.