HC Deb 24 February 1958 vol 583 cc11-2
19. Mr. Cronin

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the progress of poliomyelitis vaccination in the United Kingdom.

40. Mr. Sydney Irving

asked the Minister of Health if he will now authorise the importation from the United States of America of large enough quantities of the Salk vaccine to allow all school children in the country to be inoculated against poliomyelitis this year, including a third dose.

61. Mr. C. Hughes

asked the Minister of Health what is the Government's policy towards the vaccination of adults against poliomyelitis.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Derek Walker-Smith)

Vaccination with two injections is at present available for children over six months who were born in or after 1943, expectant mothers and certain other special groups. At the end of December over 1½ million persons had been vaccinated in Great Britain, and vaccine has since been issued for a further 1½ million. I am informed that similar arrangements are in operation in Northern Ireland. Considerable quantities of Salk vaccine are being imported, in supplementation of British vaccine. The programme is being kept under constant review. I am advised that two injections give a good degree of protection and that our first objective should be to increase the number of persons so vaccinated.

Mr. Cronin

I am obliged to the right hon. and learned Gentleman for his helpful statement, but will he do all he can to accelerate this programme, bearing in mind that there have already been considerable unnecessary delays and that the effect of those delays is that a number of children develop poliomyelitis who would not otherwise have done so?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. There are no delays in the announced programme, which is progressing properly and favourably, but I have in mind what the hon. Member said with regard to acceleration. My first objective is to secure a high acceptance rate in the present groups which are eligible.

Mr. Remnant

Will my right hon. and learned Friend give an assurance that imported vaccine is kept within the temperature range of 2 degrees and 10 degrees Centigrade until shortly before use, and, where Salk vaccine is imported privately, publicise the fact that it loses all its efficiency if it is allowed to go outside those temperatures?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I shall certainly see that all appropriate technical requirements and safeguards are carried out in the case of imported Salk vaccine.

Dr. Summerskill

Does not the right hon. and learned Gentleman think it would be better to give the third vaccination and thereby ensure that certain people have a guarantee of safety, rather than give two vaccinations only and so allow a lower degree of safety?

Mr. Walker-Smith

No, Sir. The right hon. Lady is wrong in her implication. The third injection does not guarantee safety, according to American experience. As she will know, I am advised in this matter by the Joint Committee on Poliomyelitis Vaccine, which has recently reiterated its advice that more is to be gained by giving two doses to more persons than by giving third doses.