§ Lord Harris of Haringey
asked Her Majesty's Government:
Whether there are any areas of London in which tuberculosis immunisation for school children has been suspended; and, if so, what are those areas; what are the reasons, and how long is the suspension for. [HL2871]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Health (Lord Hunt of Kings Heath)
Due to severe manufacturing problems with Celltech Medeva, who provide the only United Kingdom licensed source of Bacillus Calmette-Guerin vaccine (BCG) against tuberculosis, the routine schools BCG immunisation programme was suspended across the UK in October 1999. Once we are confident about stocks and continuity of supply, the programme will be restarted.
In response to this problem, the department has identified other manufacturers of BCG vaccines worldwide and is investigating these possibilities together with experts from the National Institute of Biological Standards and Control, the Medicines Control Agency and NHS Supplies. This work is still ongoing due to the complex nature of ensuring the safety and efficacy of any alternative source. We are not yet in a position to be able to confirm when, or if, an alternative source will be available.
In the meantime, we are concentrating the available supplies of BCG vaccine towards higher 18WA risk groups, in particular to maintain selective neonatal immunisation of infants at higher risk of exposure to tuberculosis.