Swine flu

Friday A/V Club: Vintage Swine Flu PSAs

Memories of the Ford administration.


As New York gears up for a new round of Ebola dread, here's an artifact from one of yesteryear's epidemic fears: a pair of public service announcements from the swine flu outbreak of 1976. I especially like the second one, which starts about 30 seconds in—it's a sort of micro horror movie with steadily more discordant music:

The '76 swine flu campaign became an infamous fiasco: The virus killed only one person, while several more people died from a side effect of the shots.

Ford gets a shot from Dr. Squeaky Fromme.
David Hume Kennerly

The mistakes made then have haunted the responses to subsequent public health threats, not just among those fringe characters who oppose all vaccines always but in the corridors of power. In 2002, Time reports, George W. Bush opted "not to administer a nationwide smallpox vaccination program—despite Vice President Dick Cheney's belief that doing so was a prudent counterterrorism step—because it could have resulted in dozens of deaths." Credit where it's due: The terrorist smallpox conspiracy never materialized, so Bush chose correctly.

In the case of Ebola, at any rate—where the disease is eating its way through West Africa and a vaccine is still in development—that sort of dilemma would be a vast improvement over the status quo.

(For past installments of the Friday A/V Club, go here.)

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  1. That 2nd commercial was pretty creepy. Thanks for posting.

  2. Speaking of swine flu, Obama’s CDC director has some experience with it.

    The problem was that at this point, just four days after the first reported local cases, Frieden hadn’t accomplished much beyond reading the daily tally.

    The situation quickly spun out of control. The city kept open schools where students had contracted the swine flu, and it spread rapidly among kids and staff. One victim, a 55-year-old assistant principal at a hard-hit Queens school, slipped into critical condition and died in mid-May. The victim’s wife criticized the city for underestimating the severity of the outbreak, and some of the school’s staffers told the press that they had pushed the city to close it for a week. But “nobody listened. We had kids dropping like flies,” a school official told the New York Post.


    These films are from a time when the country was still sentient. Now we are too stupid to even save ourselves.

    1. Is it possible that Tom Frieden simply hates the human race, more so than progs in general? That would seem to be at least as good an explanation for his actions and refusal to learn from past mistakes.

      1. Effectively, yes. Though I don’t think that is his thought process. I think he is a Prog and thus a totalitarian. When you are a totalitarian you think everything is the state. And since everything is the state, everything is determined by politics. Frieden judges everything according to politics not reality. Politics said that you shouldn’t shut down the schools. Therefore the schools don’t get shut down regardless of what is actually happening.

      2. Is it possible that Tom Frieden simply hates the human race,

        Not possible, probable. The giveaway is that he has a government job.

  3. I was in the military in 1976 and I remember being lined up to get the swine flu inoculation. In the weekend after that a number of guys were sick in their racks but I didn’t have any bad effects.

    I’m pretty sure that shot is at least part of the reason why none of the recent flu versions have affected me.

    1. It’s possible. I’ve heard an argument that the swine flu shots ended up saving more people than they hurt, if you take their effects during the 2009 outbreak into account.

    2. I remember being plunged into an ice bath multiple times during the week I spent hospitalized following my inoculation. I still have the scar from when they lanced the massive abscess that developed on my arm as a garnish for my 103 fever. I’ll never get another flu shot, ever, for any reason.

      I wonder if such an experience as a ten year old child has shaded my views of government being helpful.

  4. “…Dottie gave it to her girlfriend, the mailman, the paperboy, and the vet when she went to pick up her Chihuahua.”

    That is the exact copy from the voiceover for the trailer for the adult film Dottie & the Vet in What the Chihuahua Saw.

  5. No, you don’t look like the healthiest 55 year old I’ve ever seen. Also *Spoiler Alert*

    Betty dies.

    1. But he plays golf. Every weekend!

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