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Influenza Vaccine

Volume 164: debated on Monday 18 December 1989

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health (1) if he will make it his policy to ensure that in case of influenza vaccine shortage, groups seen to be medically at risk receive priority;(2) what priorities for vaccination he has accorded to hospital nurses and doctors and hospital patients.

The Department's memorandum "Immunisation Against Infectious Disease" carries advice on those individuals where protection by influenza immunisation should be considered because of special risk. These include health service staff, those suffering from certain illnesses, and the elderly and children over four years of age living in residential homes and long-stay hospitals, where use of the vaccine is not contraindicated. This advice was confirmed in the chief medical officer's letter issued on 19 September. Both documents were sent to all doctors.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what steps he took to ensure sufficient influenza vaccine prior to the present outbreak.

The joint committee on vaccination and immunisation met on 23 March 1989 to discuss the requirements for influenza vaccine for the 1989–90 season. Manufacturers were contacted during April 1989 to obtain details of the estimated number of doses of vaccine which would be made available for the United Kingdom market, and to ensure that a buffer stock would be available to the Department of Health for allocation to users if necessary. Negotiations with the manufacturers were completed by the middle of June 1989. Advice to general practitioners giving details on the use of the vaccine, and categories considered to be "at risk" was issued on 19 September 1989, prior to the commencement of the normal vaccination programme in October 1989. When during the last few days the recorded incidence of influenza cases showed a considerable increase over the corresponding figures recorded during 1988, manufacturers were contacted immediately to negotiate further supplies of the vaccine.