Hyderabad: Fighting the COVID-19 pandemic is taking a toll on the humankind. Amidst this panic, a message about another pandemic that occurred a century ago is in circulation on social media.
A picture showing a syringe and rows of beds in a hospital, with a claim: “The 1918 Spanish Flu did not kill 50,000,000 people, Vaccines that the govt forced them to take did and they are repeating the same pattern now. 50 million dead from the 1918 flu vaccine.”
— Cursed Boomer Images (@CursedBoomers) June 30, 2020
This claim is on the internet since 2012
SPANISH FLU DEJA VU – 50 million dead from 1918 FLU VACCINE http://t.co/Eh3xKIs1
— r/conspiracy (@rconspiracy) September 21, 2012
50 million dead from 1918 flu vaccine
— Summer Love (@chelsealove16) February 5, 2013
Archived version of the claim can be found here.
The claim that 50 million died due to the Spanish flu vaccine is FALSE, as there was NO vaccine discovered for 1918 Spanish Flu until the 1940s.
The 1918 influenza was the most severe pandemic in recent history. It was caused by an H1N1 virus with genes of avian origin. Although there is no universal consensus regarding where the virus originated, it spread worldwide from 1918-1919. In the United States, it was first identified in military personnel in the spring of 1918. It is estimated that about 500 million people or one-third of the world’s population became infected with this virus. The number of deaths was estimated to be at least 50 million worldwide.
According to the article on a website `History of Vaccines, the 1918 influenza had neither treatment nor an effective vaccine. Most experts at the time thought that a bacterium caused influenza, rather than a virus. And though vaccines existed for several other diseases, an effective influenza vaccine was decades away. Nor were there antibiotics to treat the virulent bacterial infections that sprang up in the wake of influenza.
CDC.gov has also published details about the 1918 flu. It stated that with no vaccine to protect against influenza infection and no antibiotics to treat secondary bacterial infections that can be associated with influenza infections, control efforts worldwide were limited to non-pharmaceutical interventions such as isolation, quarantine, good personal hygiene, use of disinfectants, and limitations of public gatherings, which were applied unevenly.
According to history.com, when the 1918 flu hit, doctors and scientists were unsure what caused it or how to treat it. Unlike today, there were no effective vaccines or antiviral drugs that treat the flu. (The first licensed flu vaccine appeared in America in the 1940s. By the following decade, vaccine manufacturers could routinely produce vaccines that would help control and prevent future pandemics.)
Hence, the claim that 50 million people died due to vaccine usage and not due to the flu is FALSE. The vaccine for Spanish flu was discovered in the 1940s and there were no vaccines or antibiotics to treat the flu in 1918.