From Wikipedia:

The 1976 swine flu outbreak, also known as the swine flu fiasco, or the swine flu debacle, was a strain of H1N1 influenza virus that appeared in 1976. Infections were only detected from January 19 to February 9, and were not found outside Fort Dix. The outbreak is most remembered for the mass immunization that it prompted in the United States. The strain itself killed one person and hospitalized 13. However, side-effects from the vaccine are thought to have caused five hundred cases of Guillain–Barré syndrome and 25 deaths.

However, allegedly this has been recently revisited and contested. For example:

Whether or not any of the antecedents had a causal relationship to GBS was, and remains, unclear. When cases of GBS were identified among recipients of the swine flu vaccines, they were, of course, well covered by the press. Because GBS cases are always present in the population, the necessary public health questions concerning the cases among vaccine recipients were "Is the number of cases of GBS among vaccine recipients higher than would be expected? And if so, are the increased cases the result of increased surveillance or a true increase?" Leading epidemiologists debated these points, but the consensus, based on the intensified surveillance for GBS (and other conditions) in recipients of the vaccines, was that the number of cases of GBS appeared to be an excess.

source: "Reflections on the 1976 Swine Flu Vaccination Program" in Emerging Infectious Diseases journal.

Although Wikipedia provides some references, to prevent getting an answer that simply repeats them, let me clarify that I am not happy with them because they are press articles, rather than peer reviewed papers.


According to Deaths following vaccination: What does the evidence show? Vaccine (2015) vol. 33, pages 3288-3292:

...an unexpectedly high number of cases of Guillain-Barré syndrome were reported in vaccinated individuals. The vaccine was estimated to have caused approximately one Guillain-Barré syndrome case per 100,000 persons vaccinated [17], resulting in 53 deaths [18]. As a result of the association between the 1976 swine flu vaccine and Guillain-Barré syndrome, this condition is closely monitored every influenza season as part of the influenza vaccine safety monitoring in the United States.

Reference 17 is Guillain-Barre syndrome following vaccination in the National Influenza Immunization Program, United States, 1976--1977. American Journal of Epidemiology vol. 110, pages 105-123. The abstract of which says:

This surveillance uncovered a total of 1098 patients with onset of GBS from October 1, 1976, to January 31, 1977, from all 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. A total of 532 patients had recently received an A/New Jersey influenza vaccination prior to their onset of GBS (vaccinated cases), and 15 patients received a vaccination after their onset of GBS. Five hundred forty-three patients had not been recently vaccinated with A/New Jersey influenza vaccine and the vaccination status for 8 was unknown. Epidemiologic evidence indicated that many cases of GBS were related to vaccination. When compared to the unvaccinated population, the vaccinated population had a significantly elevated attack rate in every adult age group. The estimated attributable risk of vaccine-related GBS in the adult population was just under one case per 100,000 vaccinations.

The Center for Disease Control similarly states on their Guillain-Barré syndrome and Flu Vaccine page:

In 1976 there was a small increased risk of GBS following vaccination with an influenza vaccine made to protect against a swine flu virus. The increased risk was approximately 1 additional case of GBS per 100,000 people who got the swine flu vaccine.

Reference 18 is The vaccine controversy: the history, use and safety of vaccinations. Westport, CT: Praeger publishers; 2005.

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