HC Deb 21 April 1958 vol 586 cc618-9
45. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Health if he has any further statement to make regarding the Russian vaccine for multiple sclerosis; and in particular what observations have been made as to the toxicity of this vaccine.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Not yet but inquiries are being pursued.

Mr. Hastings

Is the Minister aware that a certain amount of recent research has been carried out, I believe in Belfast, which associates this vaccine with rabies and that this has given rise to a very great deal of anxiety in the minds of the public? Will he endeavour as soon as possible to put himself in a position to make some statement about it? What he has already done has given great satisfaction to the public, but the public feel anxious about the danger which may result from the use of this vaccine.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Yes, Sir. I am obliged to the hon. Gentleman. With regard to the composition of the vaccine, I can say at once—this has recently been established—that it is made from the brains of rats or mice infected with the rabies virus. No further evidence is available as to the safety of the vaccine in treatment, but research is going on, as the hon. Gentleman is aware, and I am in consultation with the Medical Research Council about it.

Dr. Summerskill

As a Question of this kind was put to the Minister very many weeks ago and he assured us then that he was looking into the matter, why has it taken him such a long time? He must recognise that during this time many patients suffering from disseminated sclerosis have been waiting hopefully for some statement from him.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I assure the right hon. Lady that I have not been inactive in that matter. I was asked to look into the New Zealand question, which I have done. No evidence of the efficacy of the vaccine is available from there. I am seeking information from the Russians through the appropriate channels. Therefore, my position is at present that I can agree to the release of small private imports of this vaccine but the patients' doctors in those cases have to agree to accept responsibility for the treatment.

Mr. Edelman

Will the Minister be as dilatory about this matter as he was about the poliomyelitis vaccine? Is it not the case that the New Zealand Government have already made claims, whether established or not, that this particular vaccine has been used successfully? Is it not further the case that the Russians have published a paper giving a complete analysis of the vaccine? Why is it that, although I made inquiries of his Ministry several months ago, the matter has been allowed to drag on and has not been given the attention which the urgency of ate case demands?

Mr. Walker-Smith

The hon. Member's supplementary question was as full of inaccuracy as of innuendo. This matter is being pursued in the specific ways I indicated. It would be quite wrong, in order to win the congratulations of the hon. Member, to expedite this matter to the possible danger of the British public, and I will not do so.