• Health

Johns Hopkins report on the 2025 SPARS pandemic isn’t evidence that an upcoming pandemic is being planned

Posted on:  2024-01-15

Key takeaway

Writing reports or organizing simulation exercises using fictitious yet plausible pandemic scenarios is a normal part of emergency preparedness training. Similar to fire drills, they are useful for identifying and anticipating possible challenges that would come up during a real public health crisis.

Reviewed content


“they already have the pandemic planned”; “there’s an 89-page pdf about how they’ll push everything”

Source: Instagram, Social media users, 2024-01-12

Verdict detail

Inadequate support: The fact that a document describes a pandemic occurring between 2025 and 2028 isn’t supporting evidence that such pandemic will happen. In fact, this document described a fictitious scenario aiming at increasing preparedness against a potential public future health crisis.

Full Claim

“they already have the pandemic planned”; “there’s an 89-page pdf about how they’ll push everything”; “2025 I guess, get prepared people”


Claims that the COVID-19 pandemic was planned or that future pandemics have been planned beforehand by health authorities, universities, and prominent personalities like Bill Gates have continually surfaced on social media over the last few years.

Several instances of such a claim involved misinterpreting preparedness tabletop exercises using fictitious pandemic scenarios, as Health Feedback reported in previous reviews.

In yet another iteration, a video posted on Instagram in early January 2024 claimed that “they already have the pandemic planned”, adding that “there’s an 89-page pdf about how they’ll push everything”.

Unlike previous versions of the claim that dealt with tabletop exercises such as Event 201, this video referred to a 2017 report published by the Johns Hopkins Center for Health Security, titled “The SPARS pandemic 2025-2028 A Futuristic Scenario for Public Health Risk Communicators”.

Both tabletop exercises and this report share the same core idea: laying out a fictitious yet plausible pandemic scenario in order to identify and anticipate possible hurdles that could impair the public health emergency response.

The report described the scenario in which a pandemic of the fictitious St. Paul Acute Respiratory Syndrome Coronavirus (SPARS) would unfold. It covered the hypothetical pandemic from the first outbreak in 2025 in the Minnesotan city of St. Paul—hence the name of the virus—to its worldwide spread, to the resolution of the pandemic three years later. This imaginary SPARS virus would have a case fatality ratio of 0.6%, but would be significantly deadlier for children.

This fictitious scenario considered many challenges in the handling of the pandemic, such as administrative hurdles, communication mishaps, online spread of disinformation, public dissatisfaction, vaccine hesitancy, and so on.

However, the claim that this is evidence of a planned upcoming pandemic has no basis in fact. The report begins with the following disclaimer:

This is a hypothetical scenario designed to illustrate the public health risk communication challenges that could potentially emerge during a naturally occurring infectious disease outbreak requiring development and distribution of novel and/or investigational drugs, vaccines, therapeutics, or other medical countermeasures.

The infectious pathogen, medical countermeasures, characters, news media excerpts, social media posts, and government agency responses described herein are entirely fictional.”

The reason why this fictitious scenario “looks real”, with details about how administrations would communicate, how people would react, how news outlets and social media platforms would handle the situation, is simply because the situation needs to be realistic in order to have any learning value. Experts including epidemiologists, virologists help inform these plausible scenarios based on evidence from already-known pathogens and previous pandemics.

Fictitious scenarios and simulation exercises are an essential part of public health emergency preparedness. They help national and global public health agencies improve their response plan and enhance their coordination. Therefore, claiming that simulation exercises predict a real crisis about to come, just because one exercise coincidentally took place a few months before a genuine pandemic, is as baseless as blaming fire departments for fires just because they run periodic fire drills.


Reuters reviewed a different version of this claim and also found it unsubstantiated.

Science Feedback is a non-partisan, non-profit organization dedicated to science education. Our reviews are crowdsourced directly from a community of scientists with relevant expertise. We strive to explain whether and why information is or is not consistent with the science and to help readers know which news to trust.
Please get in touch if you have any comment or think there is an important claim or article that would need to be reviewed.


Published on:

Related Articles