§ Mr. Skeet
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what steps the Government propose to take and what funds will be available to deal with an epidemic of swine influenza by autumn of the current year;
(2) how many British firms and laboratories have capacity for producing vaccine for dealing with swine influenza: 147W and what quantity of vaccine is likely to be available in the United Kingdom by the autumn;
(3) what consultations have taken place between the health authorities in the United Kingdom and the United States of America on the subject of swine influenza;
(4) what study she has made of the possibility of the outbreak of swine influenza in the United States of America spreading to the United Kingdom; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Patrick Jenkin
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services what advice she has had about the likelihood of an epidemic of swine influenza in Great Britain; what precautions, if any, she is considering; and if she will make a statement.
§ Mr. Moonman
asked the Secretary of State for Social Services (1) what discussions her officials have had with the United Kingdom's EEC partners on the implication of vaccinations to contain swine 'flu, likely in EEC countries next autumn;
(2) if she will make a statement on the evidence available to her on problems of vaccination of entire communities in the light of the dangers of an epidemic of swine 'flu virus;
(3) if she proposes to attend the specially convened international conference convened by the WHO in April to discuss the new strains of 'flu virus;
(4) what discussions her officials have had with the WHO on the likely hazards arising from swine 'flu next autumn;
(5) what would be the approximate cost for the vaccination of the population in Great Britain against swine 'flu;
(6) what supplies exist in Great Britain of the vaccine required to cope with swine 'flu; what talks she has had with the manufacturers; and whether she has plans to expand production by 1st June.
§ Dr. Owen
Officers of my Department have been in touch with the health authorities in the United States of America direct about the outbreak of "swine influenza" there. They have also been in close touch with the World Health Organisation (WHO) though not directly with EEC partners, as each country nor-148W mally receives information from, seeks advice from and is in close touch with the WHO. I receive advice on these matters from the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation, which has an Advisory Group on Influenza, which is chaired by Sir Charles Stuart-Harris, Chairman of the Joint Committee. This Advisory Group of medical and scientific experts reviewed the situation on 25th March in the light of recent events in the United States of America. They noted that the main focus of infection in the United States of America was confined to one Army camp and the illness had not shown any unusual severity in comparison with the other types of Influenza "A". The Advisory Group considered that, although spread to other parts of the United States of America and to other countries might occur, this was by no means certain. On present evidence the Advisory Group did not recommend mass immunisation in the United Kingdom but considered that it would be prudent for manufacturers to incorporate the new virus in future vaccines. I accept this advice and understand that one of the two United Kingdom firms with capacity to produce an inactivated influenza vaccine intends to arrange to incorporate the new virus in its products. Work is also proceeding on producing a "live" influenza vaccine.
Our present policy on vaccination against influenza is to protect individuals by providing it for those at particular risk such as those with chronic heart or lung conditions, and those especially exposed to infection. On present plans we expect to have available one million doses by October and we have the potential to increase this. I have asked the Advisory Group to make a further assessment of the requirements at their meeting next month. It is not possible at this stage to give an estimate of any additional quantities of vaccine which might be required, over and above the routine influenza vaccination programme. The cost of vaccinating the whole population would depend on the costs of the new vaccine, which cannot yet be estimated, and on the method af administration. However, as I have indicated, the expert evidence I have received is against vaccination on this scale, on the basis of what is at present known. If, as a result of further evidence, the position were to 149W alter and a change in vaccination policy were considered necessary, the funds required would be made available.
The officers of my Department and the Advisory Group will monitor the situation carefully, and maintain contacts with the United States of America and WHO; a member of the Advisory Group will be attending the WHO meeting on this subject. I will make a further statement at the end of May when I will have a further report from the Advisory Group.