HC Deb 02 May 1955 vol 540 cc1327-8
32. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Health whether he will make a further statement about poliomyelitis vaccine in view of the decision taken in the United States of America to suspend all injections of Salk vaccine made by the Cutter Laboratories.

40. Mr. Sorensen

asked the Minister of Health what information he has now received in respect of deleterious effects arising from the use of the recently-discovered vaccine for poliomyelitis treatment; and what instructions have now been issued in regard to limited experimentation with this vaccine.

Mr. Iain Macleod

I am aware of the Press reports of action by the American authorities which, I assume, the hon. Members have in mind. As I mentioned in the House on the 25th April, a small field trial is being carried out by the Medical Research Council. All vaccine used in this trial, whether imported or manufactured here, will first have been the subject of rigorous tests by the Medical Research Council. Plans for large-scale immunisation are, of course, dependent on the Minister of Health being satisfied so far as is humanly possible as a result of these tests and trials that the vaccine to be used is both efficient and free from danger.

Mr. Fletcher

Would the Minister say whether any supplies of Salk vaccine from the Cutter Laboratories have been received in this country and whether he is satisfied that all possible information from the United States will be received to enable the experiments being made by the Ministry to be continued with the fullest advantage?

Mr. Macleod

No Cutter vaccine has been received in this country. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, we are in very close touch with the American authorities on all aspects of this problem.

Mr. Sorensen

Has the right hon. Gentleman yet had information from America or elsewhere as to the cause of this deleterious effect of what might be a very beneficial vaccine? Secondly, when he is assured that there is no deleterious effect likely to arise from the use of this vaccine, may we take it that progress will be made in distributing the vaccine in order to deal with this very deplorable disease?

Mr. Macleod

I have no information so far beyond the Press reports about what has happened in the last few days. In reply to the second part of the supplementary question, as soon as we are absolutely satisfied—and we must be so satisfied—that the vaccines we will use in this country are as safe as they can be made, there will be no delay in going ahead.

Sir T. Moore

Is my right hon. Friend aware that the House and the country are deeply grateful to him for his wise and cautious approach to this remedy and his refusal to be stampeded into unduly hasty action by many hon. Members and people outside the House?

Mr. Follick

Are the vaccines which are being made by the Glaxo Laboratories of their own special prescription, or according to a prescription imported from America?

Mr. Macleod

I understand that what they are making is, in fact, the Salk vaccine. The difficulties in this case have arisen, I understand, from a batch made by the Cutter Laboratories. As we have none from those batches in this country, there should not be difficulty in that particular direction.