HL Deb 07 February 1989 vol 503 cc1429-30

2.36 p.m.

Baroness Blatch asked Her Majesty's Government:

How much money they are allocating to the regional health authorities in 1989–90 for the purchase of vaccines against measles, mumps and rubella.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, £7.8 million. The Department of Health informed the regional health authorities of their share of that allocation on 22nd December last year. The allocations were calculated on the basis of each region's share of the number of live births in 1987.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply. Perhaps I may add that the take-up has been significantly successful for this new vaccine. Will he encourage links between the Health Education Council and schools so that a younger age group can be reached in preaching the importance of preventive medicine, which will have an impact on our young people while they are growing up?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, initially the take-up of the vaccine is recommended for children at 15 months and pre-school children. School nurses and community nurses have received information and are aware of the vaccination programme. There was considerable coverage in the media last year.

Baroness Turner of Camden

My Lords, bearing in mind the Government's commitment to free market forces, do they have any plans to negotiate a lower cost per dose of the vaccine, bearing in mind that there is now more than one producer of MMR, the single-shot vaccine in question?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, the noble Baroness is quite right. At the moment there are two producers of the vaccine and I understand that there is the possibility of a third. The negotiations are conducted between the manufacturer and the relative health authority, and it is up to the authority to obtain the most competitive price.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, will the noble Earl and his right honourable friends be asking the authorities to negotiate? I understand that a one-shot dose costs £4.50, which seems to be excessively high. Can he say whether the Government are proposing, through the National Health Service, to extend the target area in order to reach a much wider number of children? For example, does the Minister believe that boys should be vaccinated against rubella as well as girls? I understand that they are not. Does he believe that the ethnic groups should also be pressed to vaccinate their children?

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, it is in the interests of everybody that the cost of each dose should be as reasonable and as competitive as possible. With reference to the uptake and the particular categories, there are boys as well. As I have just said, when we launched the combined vaccine last autumn we recommended that it should be given to two groups of children—those aged 15 months, as I mentioned, to replace the measles-only vaccine and those aged four to five years before school entry—in a phased catch-up programme in order to give all pre-school children protection in two to three years' time.

Baroness Fisher of Rednal

My Lords, can the noble Earl say whether schoolgirls from the age of 12 years upwards are still included in the rubella vaccine treatment which has been prevalent in schools or whether it has been discontinued under the new scheme? If it has been discontinued, it will have a tragic effect because it concerns the overall health of teenage girls in schools.

The Earl of Arran

My Lords, to the best of my knowledge the scheme is being continued. Obviously in the pre-pregnancy period any way of wiping out measles, mumps and rubella is extremely important.