For a few weeks in 2009, it was not certain if the world faced a lethal influenza pandemic. As it turned out, the H1N1 pandemic was less severe than anticipated, though the infection did affect groups not usually susceptible to influenza. The deep uncertainties of this pandemic moment were associated with immense practical, scientific and political challenges for public health agencies around the world. We examine these challenges by drawing on the sociology of uncertainty to analyse the accounts given by UK public health practitioners who managed local responses to the pandemic. We discuss the retrospective and mitigating ‘we had to do what we thought was right at the time’ used by interviewees to explain their experience of articulating plans for a severe pandemic influenza with one that turned out to be mild.
- public health