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Vaccine Damage

Volume 131: debated on Thursday 14 April 1988

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To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what criticisms were made to his Department regarding the validity of the conclusion of the National Childhood Encephalopathy Study that the risk of brain damage from whooping cough vaccination was approximately one in 300,000 doses of the vaccine.

The National Childhood Encephalopathy Study's (NCES) estimate was that the number of previously normal children with evidence of persistent neurological damage one year after vaccination with the diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis (DTP) vaccine was one in 310,000 injections.The chief criticisms of the NCES conclusion were contained in a report prepared by Professor Gordon Stewart, which claimed that the NCES figure was an under-estimate. Professor Stewart's findings were fully considered by the Joint Committee on Vaccination and Immunisation (JCVI), which advises the Health Departments on all aspects of immunisation. The JCVI and other authorities accepted the NCES conclusion as the best estimate available, and it is acknowledged in the 1983 edition of the memorandum, "Immunisation Against Infectious Disease."

To ask the Secretary of State for Social Services what internal material relating to whooping cough vaccination was made available to the defendants and plaintiffs in the whooping cough vaccination case; if his Department will discuss the decision of the court with corresponding departments in other countries with a statutory vaccine damage payments scheme; and if he will make a statement.

As part of the proceedings in the case of Loveday v. Renton a summons for discovery was issued against the Department by the plaintiff's solicitors seeking an order to disclose certain categories of documents. An agreement was reached as to which documents should he disclosed and under what conditions. These conditions included undertakings by the plaintiffs solicitors in order to preserve the confidentiality of the documents and to prevent their use for any purposes other than the court proceedings.We are currently considering the implications of the judgment in this case for the statutory scheme of payments under the Vaccine Damage Act 1979, and will make a further statement as soon as possible.