§ The Minister of Health (Mr. Anthony Barber)
With your permission, Mr. Speaker, and that of the House, I would like to make a statement about the provision of smallpox vaccine.
An urgent appeal has been received from the Director-General of the World Health Organisation for supplies of freeze-dried smallpox vaccine to meet temporary shortages in India and other countries where eradication campaigns are in progress.
827 Her Majesty's Government are today informing the Director-General that they will make available free of charge 1 million doses a month for four months—a total of 4 million doses of vaccine in all. This gift will be a substantial help in the world-wide cause of combating the ravages of smallpox.
§ Mr. K. Robinson
Is the right hon. Gentleman aware that the Government's action will be welcomed by both sides of the House? We only wonder whether this contribution will be enough. Have any limits in time or quantity been set by the W.H.O., or by the availability of stocks over here? If the latter is the case, will he consider if necessary speeding up production in this country in order to meet any future needs of the W.H.O.?
§ Mr. Barber
We were informed by the Director-General that the period of greatest need was prior to mid-April next. I understand that the appeal to many countries was for a total of 30 million doses. Our contribution of 4 million is, as I think the House will agree, very reasonable.