National Influenza Immunization Program - The Swine Flu of 1976 Essay

National Influenza Immunization Program - The Swine Flu of 1976 Essay

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In 1976, due to an outbreak of influenza at Fort Dix, New Jersey, the United States set a precedent in immunology by attempting to vaccinate the entire population of the country against the possibility of a swine-type Influenza A epidemic. While a great many people were successfully immunized in a very short period of time, the National Influenza Immunization Program (NIIP) quickly became recognized as a failure, one reason being that the feared epidemic never surfaced at all. But this massive undertaking deserves more analysis than just a simple repudiation. For example, all evidence linked to the pathology, microbiology, and historical cycle of influenza and the outbreak at Fort Dix suggests that the reactions of the scientists and other personnel involved in the NIIP were correct. However, one must also acknowledge the many complications and misjudgments that plagued the program after its initiation, from biological difficulties, logistical problems, to tensions with the media. The swine flu is a historical event that needs to be evaluated, regarding both its successes and its failures, so that lessons can be learned for future immunization programs.

While influenza, or the "flu", is not commonly recognized as an extremely lethal disease, the pathology of influenza, and especially of the kind found at Fort Dix, does suggest that an immunization program was a reasonable course to take in 1976. In the public's mind, influenza is often not seen as a specific disease, using interchangeable names for it like "flu", "gripe", and "virus". (Silverstein: 1) However, influenza is very different from an everyday low fever or "stomach flu". It is a respiratory infection, connected with a fever, coughing, and muscle aches, which often la...

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...d be held responsible for not creating a more adaptable program that could deal with these occurrences. The NIIP must be evaluated for its drawbacks and its successes, so that people will not just see this as an unfortunate historical event, but can use it to help further immunization and disease-fighting programs in the future.
Works Cited

The "Flu". Online. 17 Feb. 1999. Available:

Laitlin, Elissa A. and Elise M. Pelletier. "The Influenza A/New Jersey(Swine Flu) Vaccine and Guillain-Barréacute; Syndrome: The Arguments for Causal Association." Drugs and Devices Line, 1997. Online. 15 Feb. 1999. Available:

Silverstein, Arthur M. Pure Politics and Impure Science: The Swine Flu Affair. Baltimore and London: The John Hopkins University Press, 1981.

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