HC Deb 19 May 1993 vol 225 cc191-2W
Mr. Galloway

To ask the Secretary of State for Health how much her Department has spent on the Wellcome manufactured whooping cough vaccine; what were the other vaccines on the market at the time that vaccine began to be used by the NHS; what has been the safety record of each of these vaccines; when it first came to the attention of her Department that there were suspected brain damage cases; when the Wellcome vaccine was withdrawn from prescription in England; and if she will make a statement.

Mr. Sackville

For most of the period since whooping cough vaccine first became available, the vaccine has been ordered direct from the suppliers by district health authorities and by general practitioners. Details of total expenditure on the Wellcome product are therefore not available centrally. Other whooping cough vaccines, from Glaxo Laboratories and the Lister Institute, were available in the United Kingdom when immunisation began in 1957, but their manufacturers subsequently discontinued production. Information on the safety of these products is not available without considerable historical research, at disproportionate cost.

Suggestions in the 1970s that serious complications following immunisation were occurring more frequently than previously thought led to the joint review by the Committee on the Safety of Medicines and the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation. The joint review reported in 1981. Its main conclusion was that the connection between permanent brain damage and whooping cough vaccine had not been established. More recently, an extensive study by the United States Institute of Medicine concluded that there is insufficient evidence to indicate a causal relationship between diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (whooping cough) vaccine and chronic neurological damage and other specified disorders.

All vaccines are examined carefully before release for safety and efficacy and only vaccines which match exacting specifications are used. All adverse reactions to vaccines are carefully monitored both by the CSM and the JCVI which advise the United Kingdom health departments.

The Wellcome whooping cough vaccine has not been withdrawn. It is now supplied by Evans Medical as a combined vaccine with diphtheria and tetanus, known as DTP, and supplied for the United Kingdom's childhood immunisation programme. More than 90 per cent. of infants receive DTP and reported cases of whooping cough in this country have fallen to exceptionally low levels, with only one death since 1990.