HC Deb 20 July 1959 vol 609 cc846-7
12. Mr. E. Fletcher

asked the Minister of Health what advice he gives to local authorities in areas in which an unusually large outbreak of poliomyelitis occurs.

Mr. Walker-Smith

Local authorities are advised by their own medical officers of health to whom a medical memorandum was issued in July, 1954, recommending a code of practice on the occurrence of an outbreak of poliomyelitis. My medical officers are always available for consultation and advice.

Mr. Fletcher

I am sure the Minister knows that there has been a serious outbreak of poliomyelitis in Islington. Will the right hon. and learned Gentleman bear in mind that statistics show that the risk is very much less in the case of children who have been immunised, even if they have had only two injections, compared with those who have not been immunised? In view of this, will the Minister do what he can to recommend the greatest possible use of immunisation among children?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I have noted with regret these cases in Islington. In the early stages of the outbreak, there was a very good response to the vaccination programme in Islington, but I am sorry to say that it has shown signs of falling off. I hope that what the hon. Gentleman has said will encourage the response to pick up again.

Dr. Summerskill

As immunisation is at the moment limited to certain age groups and expectant mothers, are we to take it from what the Minister has said that, in the event of an outbreak, all contacts, irrespective of age, can be immunised?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am advised about those who should be vaccinated by the Committee presided over by Lord Cohen of Birkenhead, and I follow its recommendations. The Committee has recommended the priority groups at present eligible for vaccination.

Mr. Kershaw

Has my right hon. and learned Friend any figures to show the improvement with regard to poliomyelitis outbreaks since the very large scale inoculations and vaccinations started?

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am happy to say that the general incidence this year is

Deaths from respiratory diseases
1938 1958
Total As per cent. of deaths from all causes Total As per cent. of deaths from all causes
England and Wales 48,222 10.1 60,808 11.5
Stoke-on-Trent 358 11.6 415 13.6
Lancashire 6,989 10.9 8,746 13.3
Sussex 853 7.8 1,535 9.9

The "respiratory diseases" include influenza, bronchitis, pneumonia, industrial lung diseases and other relatively uncommon causes of death among respiratory diseases, but do not include tuberculosis or cancer of the lung.