31 August 2009

Can forseeable consequences be unintended?

There is an interesting piece on Croakey about the need for a more considered planning process for the Australian H1N1 vaccination program. It spells out the need for precaution in relation to the administration of the vaccine and to not rush into repeating the mistakes of the 1976 US swine flu mass-vaccination campaign.

I'm not suggesting that an HIA would be appropriate in this case - in fact I think it wouldn't be. It does however raise some interesting points about whether potential consequences that can be foreseen (the transmission infectious organisms through multi-dose vials and Guillain-Barré syndrome are both mentioned in the piece) can ever be regarded as unintended?

Sarah Curtis wrote a fantastic article on the related issue of having to make decisions about risks as part of HIA when much of the information required to make these decisions is unknown (within the context of discussing the broader concept of risk society). As HIA practitioners we have to deal with similar issues regularly - what are your thoughts?