False: The COVID-19 pandemic is scam, similar to the swine flu scandal.

By: Ankita Kulkarni
October 19 2022

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False: The COVID-19 pandemic is scam, similar to the swine flu scandal.


The Verdict False

Data and scientific evidence show both COVID-19 and swine flu are natural events that have affected millions.

Claim ID 16295390


A Facebook post, first shared in 2021, claims that the present "COVID-19 pandemic is also a scam similar to that of the Swine flu scandal". The post claims World Health Organization (WHO) scientists had ties with pharmaceutical companies who allegedly conspired to advise stockpiling vaccines against swine flu for profit. Using a 2009 Channel 4 news clip on the 2009 swine flu pandemic, the post implies that the government, WHO, big pharmaceutical companies, and media are exaggerating the severity of the current COVID-19 pandemic similarly to profit from the vaccines. However, this claim is baseless and unsupported.

In fact

Swine flu is a novel influenza A (H1N1) virus that first emerged in the United States in 2009 and later spread around the globe. The virus outbreak was similar to the flu viruses affecting pigs. The U.K. National Health Service (NHS) notes that the overall effect of the virus on the country's population was milder than predicted, mainly because older people were already immune. The total number of U.K. deaths caused by swine flu was 457.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) stated that "the virus was different from circulating H1N1 viruses, vaccination with seasonal flu vaccines offered little protection". Although the vaccines were produced, they were not available in large quantities until late November in 2009. In 2010, WHO declared the pandemic was officially over, and there was backlash on the authenticity of key WHO scientists who advised countries to stockpile vaccines.

On June 4, 2010, BBC News published a report quoting an investigation by the British Medical Journal and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism. The investigation revealed that WHO key scientists who lent out the guidelines for stacking up flu vaccines back in 2004 had links with pharma companies Roche, which makes flu vaccines Tamiflu, and GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), manufacturer of Relenza. The conflict of interest included 16 committee members who advised the then WHO Director-General Margaret Chan to declare the swine flu a pandemic.

BBC News added that this advice resulted in countries buying large stocks of vaccines, which remained unused in warehouses. The swine flu pandemic evaluation report published by the European Parliament in 2011 showed that handling the pandemic lacked transparency.

The same information about the investigation was also reported by Channel 4 back in 2010. We found the complete video on YouTube, the clip of which is included in the viral Facebook post now in question. The Channel 4 video report details the contracts signed for the vaccines and the number of vaccinated people. There is a possibility that guidelines given by key WHO scientists were based on the initial predictions by independent experts. The number of vaccines advised for stockpiling might have also been done as a precautionary measure to be prepared for worst-case scenarios. There is no concurrent evidence to prove that the pandemic was a scam. 

A similar pattern of dealing with health emergencies is also observed in the recent COVID-19 pandemic. The outbreak was first spotted in Wuhan, China, in early 2020. At present, WHO states that around six million deaths have been reported worldwide due to the coronavirus since the pandemic. The COVID-19 vaccines have been widely approved and distributed worldwide since December 2020. Vaccines have helped in reducing the risk of getting seriously ill or dying from COVID-19, reducing the risk of catching or spreading the infection, and protecting against COVID-19 variants. A study published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal by the MRC Centre for Global Infectious Disease Analysis, Imperial College London, noted that based on the official reported COVID-19 deaths, vaccinations prevented 14·4 million deaths from COVID-19 in 185 countries and territories between December 8, 2020, and December 8, 2021.

Unlike some of the relevant criticism on the handling of the swine flu infections, COVID-19 and its vaccine-related data is made transparent, including its contents, vaccine trial data, and efficacy. The adverse effects of the vaccines are also continuously being monitored and evaluated. Scientists note that those reported adverse effects outweigh the benefits provided by the vaccines.

Such publicly available information reinstates that the COVID-19 pandemic is not a scandal. No studies or research indicate the swine flu and COVID-19 pandemics were scams. Claims like these are a part of unsubstantiated conspiracy theories funded and purported by anti-vaxxers.

The verdict

The COVID-19 and Swine flu pandemics are events that occurred naturally and have affected millions of people, and thousands of deaths have been recorded due to the virus. There is no evidence to quote that the governments or any health organizations have exaggerated the severity of the pandemic and introduced vaccines for profit. Hence, we have marked this claim as false.

The COVID-19 pandemic has given rise to a lot of potentially dangerous misinformation. For reliable advice on COVID-19, including symptoms, prevention, and available treatment, please refer to the World Health Organization or your national healthcare authority.

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