HC Deb 12 February 1962 vol 653 cc906-10
33. Mr. Pavitt

asked the Minister of Health what was the cost of each pack of smallpox vaccine USP prepared by the National Drug Company of Philadelphia, and supplied to the National Health Service, containing ten tubes, ten capillaries of vaccine, ten scarifying needles and one rubber bulb; what was the total number imported from the United States of America during the last twelve months; and what was the total cost to the National Health Service.

The Minister of Health (Mr. Enoch Powell)

100,000 packs. It is not the practice to disclose prices.

Mr. Pavitt

Is the Minister satisfied that this rather elaborate practice is the best way of getting this vaccine? Is he able to get supplies from British producers rather than from American?

Mr. Powell

These were a very useful reinforcement of our reserves. I can say that they were no dearer than our general supplies.

Mr. Manuel

The Minister has indicated that it is not his practice to state prices. Does he not think that the House is entitled to some information about prices in respect of these huge orders of vaccines and other things necessary for the health of the people which have been ordered from abroad?

Mr. Powell

Yes, certainly, and I have answered Questions on the cost of supplies generally. But it is obviously undesirable to give the prices for particular consignments where competition between the suppliers is desirable.

36. Mr. Callaghan

asked the Minister of Health when he proposes to institute a general campaign for vaccination against smallpox in Cardiff and South Wales.

Mr. Powell

This is not the intention. My policy is to encourage the routine vaccination of all infants and of adults whose work may bring them into contact with infected persons or material.

Mr. Callaghan

Is the Minister aware that I thoroughly disagree with him? Will he please reconsider this decision and step up the propaganda and publicity so that if there is another outbreak of smallpox we shall not experience once again long queues of worried, anxious people waiting to be vaccinated, when sometimes there are insufficient supplies of vaccine? Why not take time by the forelock in this matter?

Mr. Powell

The important thing is that, if possible, 100 per cent. of infants should be vaccinated as a routine, as part of the general immunity which children aught to be acquiring. I am glad to say that in Cardiff the acceptance rate for infant vaccination has been increasing in the last few years and is well above the level for England and Wales and for Wales. I hope that Cardiff will go on with this good work, because it is the right approach.

Mr. K. Robinson

What is the Minister doing to ensure a higher rate of infant vaccination? Even if he is reluctant to go as far as my hon. Friend the Member for Cardiff, South-East (Mr. Callaghan) suggests, will he not at any rate see whether he can do something through the schools medical service to get children vaccinated who are amongst the 60 per cent. who were not vaccinated as infants?

Mr. Powell

Yes. There is a continuous campaign to press immunisation. I believe that each campaign for any kind of immunisation helps with the whole package. In the last few years the increase in immunisation against poliomyelitis has undoubtedly improved the figures for immunity against smallpox. This is something which has to go forward as a whole, and it is being pressed through and on local health authorities.

39. Mr. Denis Howell

asked the Minister of Health what machinery exists in his Department to receive, distribute and act upon information distributed by the World Health Authority regarding smallpox epidemics.

Mr. Powell

This information goes to port health authorities direct.

Mr. Howell

Is the Minister aware that the various medical officers, including the medical officers in Birmingham, are receiving the World Epidemiological Report weekly, which shows that as early as November and December there were about 300 cases a week in Karachi, with 30 deaths a week, but that they received no guidance at all from the Ministry? As late as only a fortnight ago, when an aeroplane was diverted unexpectedly to Elmdon, the medical officer of health had no guidance at all as to how he should deal with the matter, and in Birmingham he took the law into his own hands, particularly in respect of a Chinese gentleman who had travelled across the world. Is not this a ridiculous state of affairs?

Mr. Powell

There is no question of his taking the law into his own hands. The responsibility and the powers are his. This is the duty of the port health authorities, who receive regularly the information which is necessary for them to discharge it. It was only in the third week of December that the figures disseminated by the World Health Organisation showed an abnormal situation in Karachi.

46. Mrs. Castle

asked the Minister of Health which European countries are now demanding international certificates of vaccination against smallpox from British visitors to their countries; and whether he will insist on reciprocal arrangements being enforced against their nationals.

Mr. Powell

According to my information, all except Austria, Denmark, the Republic of Ireland, Norway and Switzerland. The answer to the second part of the question is "No, Sir".

Mrs. Castle

Is it not a fact that there are at present serious outbreaks of smallpox in the Congo and in Liberia, and that Europeans in contact with these countries could carry smallpox when coming to Great Britain? Therefore, will not the right hon. Gentleman protect the British people against the danger of smallpox from Europeans and other travellers, instead of pretending that the only danger comes from Commonwealth immigrants?

Mr. Powell

As our experience has shown, the requirement of international certificates is in itself not a protection against the importation of smallpox. But there is in Europe hardly any smallpox at all, and, although these countries are fully within their rights under the international agreement in requiring these certificates, I do not believe that our protection would be increased by doing so.

Mrs. Castle

If the international certificate of vaccination is no protection, why are France, West Germany and other countries demanding the production of such certificates from British travellers? Clearly the right hon. Gentleman is contradicting himself. Have not the British people the same right to protection from European carriers as Europeans have from British carriers?

Mr. Powell

Yes, we have the right to do this, but there is no question of reprisals in this matter. As there have been cases of smallpox in this country, these countries were entitled under the international agreement to make this requirement.

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