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Poliomyelitis

Volume 640: debated on Monday 15 May 1961

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31.

asked the Minister of Health what percentage of the population of the United Kingdom has now been inoculated against poliomyelitis since the introduction of the vaccine.

Is it not regrettable that such a large number of mature adults should willingly run the risk of contracting paralytic poliomyelitis when preventive medicine is available at no cost and at very little personal inconvenience? Is my right hon. Friend satisfied that the publicity on the effectiveness of this vaccine is wholly adequate?

Of course, it is the priority classes for whom immunisation is particularly important, and there the proportions are much better. For example, of those up to 18 years of age nearly 80 per cent. have obtained immunity. I would certainly not overlook any opportunity of stressing the importance to those at risk of obtaining immunity if they have not already got it.

Will the right hon. Gentleman confirm that the overwhelming majority of those persons who contract poliomyelitis are those who have not been inoculated?

Can the right hon. Gentleman say what proportion of the total population is at present eligible for immunisation?

41.

asked the Minister of Health what information he has received from the United States of America and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics concerning the value of oral vaccine against poliomyelitis.

I understand that oral vaccine has only been used experimentally in the United States of America but has been widely used in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. All information available about experience in these countries was taken into consideration by the Joint Committee on Poliomyelitis Vaccine in its recent advice to me.

Is it not a fact that the Sabin vaccine used in the United States has been administered in hundreds of thousands of cases and has given complete immunity, and that in the Soviet Union a Sabin-type vaccine has been used in millions of cases and has given complete immunity? Will he not make a special study of this vaccine, for which it is claimed at any rate that a single oral dose will give complete immunity?

The Joint Committee to which I referred has this in mind, of course, and is studying it. It will, no doubt, advise me further, but its present advice to me, by which I must be guided, is that the vaccination programme should continue to be based on the killed vaccine.

42.

asked the Minister of Health what loss would accrue to his Department if oral vaccine against poliomyelitis were used in substitution for the existing methods of vaccination.

My present advice is that oral vaccine is not a substitute for the existing methods.

Will the right hon. Gentleman define more closely what he meant by "immunisation" in reply to a Question from the hon. Member for Acton (Mr. Holland)? Is it not a fact that it is now considered that four inoculations have to be given before immunisation is complete? In the circumstances, will not he give very urgent attention to the question of substituting the oral vaccine which, it is claimed at any rate, gives complete protection after a single dose? Further will he give an absolute assurance that commercial considerations of any kind will not be permitted to stand in the way of the introduction of the oral vaccine if it can be established that the oral vaccine gives speedier and better protection?

The answer to the last part of the hon. Gentleman's question is an unqualified "Yes". He referred to "immunisation" as I had used the word in a former reply. His right hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich (Mr. Dugdale) pointed out that the vast majority of cases of polio occur where there has not been vacination by the existing methods. My present advice, by which I must be guided, is that those existing methods are the best available for securing the highest possible personal immunity.