Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is a Netflix Original documentary series that explores how pandemics spread, are prevented, and how they’re stopped. From the scientists engineering vaccines to the virologists tracking the origins of a pandemic, to the healthcare providers directly treating patients, the documentary series focuses on various doctors and scientists who are working to treat and save patients while also preventing the next pandemic outbreak. The documentary mostly focuses on the flu and combating a potential flu pandemic as well as perfecting the flu vaccine.
To many, the flu seems like an obsolete illness and hardly something that requires this much focus; however, the “CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million – 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 – 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.” And that is only within the United States. Add that to the flu’s worldwide impact and it is hard not to justify getting a flu shot every year and focusing more efforts on fighting the ever-mutating illness.
From episode one, “It Hunts Us,” the documentary series takes a stand in favor of science and most importantly, vaccines. More often than not, the best defense against a potential pandemic is a vaccine. The flu vaccine needs to be updated every year because the virus mutates. While the vaccine is only about 50 percent effective, with the shot, if a patient gets the flu, it is often much milder. This also means the chances of having serious complications decrease significantly. As the United States continues to see more and more parents debate the validity of the life-saving medical miracle that is vaccinations, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak explains in detail why they are so important. Episode two, “Pandemic is Now,” opens with a mother explaining the “evils of vaccines” to her children while giving them essentials oils to rub in their hands and inhale.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is quick to remind us just how dangerous this woman’s arrogance, ignorance, and disregard for her children’s lives are. Following her rant against vaccines, the documentary focuses on the young Guatemalan boy, Felipe Gomez Alonso, who died in US Border Patrol’s custody and after an investigation and autopsy, it was determined he had the flu. Felipe is not alone as many children cross the border with their families in the hope of gaining safety and a better life in America. But unlike many parents in the United States, Felipe’s mother is terrified of the flu and understands its lethal outcomes.
The juxtaposition of a white woman preaching to her children about bodily autonomy under the guise of protecting them from vaccines next to a brown woman grieving the loss of a child who did not have access to a vaccine but gladly would have taken it is jarring, saddening but incredibly necessary. Felipe’s mother’s pain and grief are palpable. Not only did she lose a child to a preventable illness but she lost her child because the country she hoped would give him a brighter future failed to protect him, offer him proper accommodations, or even treat him humanely.
In addition to the United States, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak also focuses on doctors and scientists in Lebanon, India, the Democratic Republic of Congo, and other places around the world. Each scientist works to help not only their home but the world as a whole. One of the main points the series belabors is just how global of a problem the flu and any potential pandemic can be. The Avian Flu, which started in China, quickly became a global pandemic, spreading as far as Egypt. The same logic can be applied to any disease. As the focus shifts from a small-town doctor in Oklahoma to team of researchers in Egypt doing surveillance on birds and bats in hoping to track the spread, the point remains the same: vaccines prevent outbreaks.
One of the strongest fighters for vaccines outside of the healthcare system is State Senator Elizabeth Steiner Hayward. Hayward, in addition to being a state senator in Oregan, is a family physician at Oregon Health & Science University. While serving in the senate, Hayward proposed a strict bill that would eliminate all vaccination exemptions that are not medical. Her bill, House Bill 3063, received backlash from the anti-vaxx community within the state. However, at that point, the state had seen an unprecedented increase in measles.
The documentary does an excellent job of showing the anti-vaxxers arguments being brilliantly refuted by Hayward. During a public hearing on the bill, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak takes a moment to focus on one mother arguing in favor of the bill because her daughter is immunocompromised. People with compromised immune systems cannot get vaccines and rely on herd immunity. This means she cannot attend school if her fellow classmates are not vaccinated. Her daughter and millions of children like her are suffering the most because of the irrational decision to not vaccinate. Unfortunately, that bill did not pass.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is excellent. Its focus on vaccines and the various ways they can save people suffering from various diseases is well documented. The documentary excels at covering issues that affect Americans while also reminding viewers just how global medical crises can be. In a world where more and more people are spreading false information about vaccines, leading to the WHO to consider it one of the top ten threats to global public health, Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is necessary viewing.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is streaming now on Netflix.
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak
Pandemic: How to Prevent an Outbreak is excellent. Its focus on vaccines and the various ways they can save people suffering from various diseases is well documented. The documentary excels at covering issues that affect Americans while also reminding viewers just how global medical crises can be. It is necessary viewing.