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Case
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Reference no. HKS0313.0
Published by: Harvard Kennedy School
Published in: 1979

Abstract

In 1976, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control determined that recent cases of influenza among army recruits were caused by the same virus believed to be the agent of the 1918-19 flu pandemic in which 500,000 Americans died. The implications of the discovery were complicated by a number of scientific inferences about the flu virus, none of them ultimately verifiable, which held out the possibility of an extremely severe flu epidemic the following winter. This case examines the reaction of the CDC, the Ford administration, and the media to the discovery. Swine Flu (A) discusses briefly the uncertain scientific evidence available to government health officials, and describes the efforts by federal agencies and White House staff to reach a decision on whether to initiate a massive immunization program. It can be taught independently or in conjunction with the other cases in this series. The appendix to Part (A) contains text taken from a report to HEW Secretary Joseph Califano on an emergency meeting of an external scientific panel; the supplement provides further background documentation on the CDC and its handling of the Swine Flu issue. Part (B) details media reaction to Ford''s announcement of a national immunization program. Part (C) follows the implementation of the program, covering such issues as the results of vaccine field trials, government liability, and difficulties in administering the program. Swine Flu (D) briefly outlines the historical analogues repeatedly referred to in the 1976 decision-making. Finally, Swine Flu (E) offers a summary of the above sections, from the initial scare through Ford''s decision to go ahead with an immunization program. This case offers students the opportunity to analyze the process of governmental policy choice. Part (A) with appendix can also be used to introduce students to the notion of decision analysis, focusing specifically on Sencer''s analysis of the risk of an epidemic and possible courses of action. The Swine Flu Decision: An Analytic Summary is a teaching note covering this approach. Finally, as part of the series of uses-of-history cases, Swine Flu demonstrates the uses and misuses of historical analogies in decision-making.

About

Abstract

In 1976, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control determined that recent cases of influenza among army recruits were caused by the same virus believed to be the agent of the 1918-19 flu pandemic in which 500,000 Americans died. The implications of the discovery were complicated by a number of scientific inferences about the flu virus, none of them ultimately verifiable, which held out the possibility of an extremely severe flu epidemic the following winter. This case examines the reaction of the CDC, the Ford administration, and the media to the discovery. Swine Flu (A) discusses briefly the uncertain scientific evidence available to government health officials, and describes the efforts by federal agencies and White House staff to reach a decision on whether to initiate a massive immunization program. It can be taught independently or in conjunction with the other cases in this series. The appendix to Part (A) contains text taken from a report to HEW Secretary Joseph Califano on an emergency meeting of an external scientific panel; the supplement provides further background documentation on the CDC and its handling of the Swine Flu issue. Part (B) details media reaction to Ford''s announcement of a national immunization program. Part (C) follows the implementation of the program, covering such issues as the results of vaccine field trials, government liability, and difficulties in administering the program. Swine Flu (D) briefly outlines the historical analogues repeatedly referred to in the 1976 decision-making. Finally, Swine Flu (E) offers a summary of the above sections, from the initial scare through Ford''s decision to go ahead with an immunization program. This case offers students the opportunity to analyze the process of governmental policy choice. Part (A) with appendix can also be used to introduce students to the notion of decision analysis, focusing specifically on Sencer''s analysis of the risk of an epidemic and possible courses of action. The Swine Flu Decision: An Analytic Summary is a teaching note covering this approach. Finally, as part of the series of uses-of-history cases, Swine Flu demonstrates the uses and misuses of historical analogies in decision-making.

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