The Swine Flu Fiasco of 1976—60 Minutes with Mike Wallace

by Dave Crow Jul 31, 2021

Aired on 60 Minutes, November 4, 1979.

The year was 1976 and the U.S. government was in the throes of a campaign to “inoculate every man, woman and child in the United States” against swine flu in an effort to avert a repeat of the flu pandemic of 1918, which killed millions.

46 million Americans (about 21% of the overall population of 218,000,000) obediently took the shot. 4,000 of those individuals suffered side effects, leading to claims of $3.5 billion dollars in damages against the U.S. government.

The swine flu never developed into the global pandemic that health experts predicted, and vaccinations were halted two months after they began following reports that 500 people who received the shot developed a paralyzing nerve disease. 30 of those victims later died from damages allegedly caused by the shot.

“When lives are at stake, it is better to err on the side of overreaction than underreaction. Because of the unpredictability of influenza, responsible public health leaders must be willing to take risks on behalf of the public. This requires personal courage and a reasonable level of understanding by the politicians to whom these public health leaders are accountable. All policy decisions entail risks and benefits: risks or benefits to the decision maker; risks or benefits to those affected by the decision. In 1976, the federal government wisely opted to put protection of the public first.” —Dr. David Senser, CDC Director, fired in 1977.

What would-be pandemic profiteers learned from the swine flu fiasco of 1976

Patience. While the United States and the rest of the world were relatively unsophisticated, they weren’t scared enough. That would take time, especially given any residual of memory of 1976.

Obtain immunity from liability.  In 1976 when the industry manufacturers announced that they had been refused liability insurance, they asked Congress to indemnify them from lawsuits based upon vaccine injury, but were turned down. Eventually the Ford administration agreed to bear the cost of defending lawsuits and asked Congress to pass specific legislation. Without general immunity from liability vaccine manufacturers could not guarantee their profits. It took time, but now both the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act of 1986 and the Countermeasures Injury Compensation Program (CICP) provide immunity from liability to vaccine makers for deaths and injuries that occur from use of their products. Payouts are exceptionally rare for the CICP, where compensation for COVID vaccine injuries and deaths must be claimed.

More influence, more bribes. Vaccine manufacturers certainly learned to share the wealth.

Candidate Amount
Sanders, Bernie (I-VT) $1,264,349
Ossoff, Jon (D-GA) $865,753
Warnock, Raphael (D-GA) $765,279
Warren, Elizabeth (D-MA) $717,626
McConnell, Mitch (R-KY) $556,990
Kelly, Mark (D-AZ) $542,199
Perdue, David (R-GA) $535,908
Loeffler, Kelly (R-GA) $513,231
Tillis, Thom (R-NC) $471,884
McCarthy, Kevin (R-CA) $446,334
Peters, Gary (D-MI) $370,502
Cornyn, John (R-TX) $326,496
Gardner, Cory (R-CO) $323,583
Graham, Lindsey (R-SC) $309,666
Klobuchar, Amy (D-MN) $288,858
Daines, Steven (R-MT) $282,838
Hudson, Richard (R-NC) $276,993
Jones, Doug (D-AL) $276,437
Scalise, Steve (R-LA) $273,427
Pallone, Frank Jr (D-NJ) $256,925

Take control of the narrative. In 1976, Pascal Imperato, who led New York City’s swine flu vaccination drive complained, “Some of those headlines were really terrible. I remember, one of them was ‘death toll mounting’,” he recalls. “What they were really doing was monitoring the normal pattern of deaths in a population of older people that would have occurred anyway.” Blaming the vaccine, he says, was akin to concluding that a man killed by a falling tree limb died because of his red socks. Why not blame the virus for a normal pattern of deaths instead?

Never acknowledge anything outside the narrative. In 1976 only 30 deaths and a few thousand injuries thwarted the vaccination program. This time, 11,940 deaths and 63,102 serious injuries must be ignored.

What the public and mainstream news media learned from the swine flu fiasco of 1976

Nothing.

Mike Wallace, even though he was a television personality, had the journalistic integrity to perceive Dr. David Senser, indeed any representative of the government, as an adversary—and Wallace had the facts and the courage to catch Senser with his pants down.

Imagine a similar interview of current CDC director, Dr. Rochelle Walensky conducted by Judy Woodruff, assuming Woodruff had the temerity to ask this question:

Judy: “Dr. Walensky in a recent interview, you made the point that vaccinated people are safe. How would you respond to the fact that on Friday the CDC’s Vaccine Adverse Event Reporting System, listed a total of 518,770 adverse events, including 11,940 deaths and 63,102 serious injuries?

Rochelle: “Well, Judy, those are just reports from people. Who knows what kind of people? We have to investigate them.

Judy: “Gosh, Dr. Walensky that must be a daunting task.

For a different perspective read The fiasco of the 1976 ‘swine flu affair’

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