Did the World Health Organization (WHO) over-react? Any parent knows that you can either over-react or under-react in the face of danger to your children’s welfare. The WHO has a responsibility (much like parents do) to alert the world’s citizens to dangerous diseases and call to action assistance in dealing with possible pandemics. They had a choice; they could’ve underplayed the seriousness, or they could have done just what they did, and alert the world governments about the risk of H1N1, calling for vaccination efforts.
It's been claimed that the alert was over-stated. For example, the WHO initially thought it would require two doses of vaccine for everyone, rather than just for children under the age of 9 as is now recommended. They also changed the requirements to limit who should first receive it (those with known respiratory illness, and pregnant women, etc.). They estimated the severity of the virus based on the transmissibility, not the deadliness of the strain. According to the WHO, it is normal to judge severity based on transmissibility.
The accusing governments over-committed purchasing vaccines for what they estimate has turned out to be a "mild pandemic." In a related article, “The H1N1 Pandemic, Is a Second Wave Possible?” the author states that it is difficult to compare this pandemic to pandemics of the past because even 40 years ago, health officials didn’t have the antiviral therapies and vaccination capabilities available today.
"So did they over-react?" I asked my friend, Erin, a clinical nurse. She said, speaking for not only herself but her doctor husband as well, “Ask China- who came under [scrutiny following] the SARS pandemic, [and] had the world tut-tutting at them for not being more pro-active.”
Currently, H1N1 has claimed over 14,000 laboratory-confirmed deaths worldwide, most have been young, previously healthy people. Comparatively, SARS has only claimed 774 deaths.
Erin went on to say, “ …based on the numbers, this was a pandemic, even if the flu was not virile enough to kill most of the people it infected.