HC Deb 21 April 1958 vol 586 cc48-51W
49. Mr. Hastings

asked the Minister of Health whether, in view of the need for poliomyelitis vaccine and the failure, both of the United States of America and of private enterprise, to supply this need fully, he will make the necessary provision in national laboratories.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am not sure exactly what provision the hon. Member has in mind. If, however, he is referring to the actual manufacture of vaccine, I do not think his suggestion would be of any help, and clearly could not affect the present supply position.

50. Mr. Chetwynd

asked the Minister of Health what action he now proposes to take to provide an adequate supply of poliomyelitis vaccine; and what arrangements he is making for further distributions to local authorities.

54 and 55. Mr. Janner

asked the Minister of Health (1) whether he is aware that there is a growing anxiety about the inadequacy of the supply of vaccine to meet the minimum requirements for the protection of the population of this country against poliomyelitis; and whether he will make a statement on the position and on what steps he has taken to secure the necessary supply;

(2) how many doses of vaccine will be available from sources in this country and from North America, respectively, for the purpose of poliomyelitis immunisation here in April, 1958, and in each of the succeeding eight months.

58. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health if he will make a statement on the present position and future prospects with regard to the vaccination of schoolchildren against poliomyelitis.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The Government's current programme for vaccination against poliomyelitis involves the vaccination of those in the priority groups—mainly children under 15 and expectant mothers—who register for it. For this purpose both British vaccine and Salk are used and initial orders for 5,000 litres of Salk were placed last September so that, with a reasonable regularity of delivery, steady and uninterrupted progress would be maintained in the vaccination programme.

There has, however, been some interruption of supplies to local health authorities, and consequently of the vaccination programme, for a number of causes. These delays in the delivery of vaccine have occurred in each of the four original sources of supply, two British firms, one Canadian and one in the United States of America. In each of the four cases the cause of delay was different. But in no case was it within the control of or due to the fault of the Government.

Immediate steps have been taken to remedy the deficiencies. Earlier this year, when the difficulties in the supply of British vaccine occurred, 2,800 litres of further Salk vaccine were ordered and further new purchases were immediately initiated to replace the Salk vaccine due to have been delivered last week. Any delay in vaccination due to shortage of vaccine is, of course, something which we all keenly regret but we shall do our utmost to minimise it.

A batch of British vaccine is now in process of distribution; a further batch will be distributed before the end of the week and, barring further unforeseen difficulties, much larger supplies, mainly of Salk, will become available next month. I am arranging for the purchase of further substantial quantities of Salk vaccine and expect to be in a position to give some further information as to this, and also our supply position and prospects in answer to the Questions by the hon. Member for Coventry, North (Mr. Edelman) next week.

56. Mr. Goodhart

asked the Minister of Health to what extent restrictions on the export of monkeys from India have interfered with the manufacture and testing of poliomyelitis vaccine in this country.

Mr. Walker-Smith

The Government of India have recently imposed certain restrictions on the export and travel conditions of monkeys. These have not so far interfered with the manufacture and testing of vaccine in this country.

57. Mr. Dodds

asked the Minister of Health if he is aware of the concern in Kent arising from the failure of the delivery of the necessary supplies of vaccine that has necessitated the postponement of the Kent County Council's programme for vaccination of schoolchildren against poliomyelitis; and what action he proposes to take in the matter.

Mr. Walker-Smith

I am aware of the position in Kent. In common with other local health authorities the County Council will receive its share of vaccine as it becomes available.