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Smallpox Inoculations

Volume 404: debated on Monday 28 April 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for Health what his Department's guidance is for those wishing to have smallpox inoculations. [108986]

Smallpox vaccination is not being offered to the general population at present. Smallpox vaccine has a much higher rate of serious complications than vaccines that are in regular use today. Certain groups are at even higher risk, such as those with weak immune systems or with eczema. We are following World Health Organisation (WHO) guidance — and plan to "ring vaccinate" in the event of a smallpox outbreak. Our contingency plans for dealing with smallpox are detailed in the draft guidelines on smallpox available on htm.A small number of key frontline national health service staff and a small number of military personnel, who would provide the first response in the event of a confirmed, suspected or threatened release of smallpox, are being vaccinated. The Department of Health programme is under way on a regional basis, coordinated by the regional directors of public health.We have sufficient stocks of smallpox vaccine, which would be rapidly deployed to contain any outbreak. We have taken steps to considerably increase our supplies. We are planning for every eventuality and this includes the ability to vaccinate the entire population if necessary.In addition, guidance for individuals wishing to have smallpox inoculations is available in the information pack, "Smallpox Vaccination of Regional Response Groups—Information for health care workers administering or receiving the vaccine". This guidance is available on