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Volume 454: debated on Wednesday 13 December 2006

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what participation by the biopharmaceutical sector is planned for the pandemic influenza planning exercise in February 2007. (104833)

In 2007, a separate exercise is planned for the participation of the medical supply chain to test their preparations in the event of an influenza pandemic.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health whether people with Parkinson's disease will be entitled to free anti-influenza inoculations in 2006-07. (105542)

Parkinson's disease is not currently a risk group identified for routine flu vaccination. However, general practitioners may offer flu vaccine to their patients taking into account the risk of influenza infection exacerbating any underlying disease that a patient may have, as well as the risk of serious illness from influenza itself.

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what the Government’s policy is on the (a) prophylactic and (b) acute use of (i) anti-viral drugs and (ii) the H5N1 avian influenza vaccine in the event of a pandemic reaching the UK. (107616)

We have purchased a sufficient quantity of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) to treat 25 per cent. of the population. This should be adequate to treat all those who fall ill in a pandemic of similar proportions to those in the 20th century.

We are currently considering the practicalities of giving antivirals (as prophylaxis) to members of the household of a person with pandemic influenza. This would require a larger stockpile than currently planned for. Sustained use of antivirals for prophylaxis will not represent the best use of our resources, and would reduce the number of people who could be treated.

We are stockpiling 3.3 million doses of H5N1 vaccines (1.7 million have been delivered). These may be used for frontline healthcare workers if there was a close enough match between the vaccine strain and the emerging pandemic strain. It is important to remember that a pandemic virus could be so different from pre-pandemic vaccine strains that such vaccines would not offer any benefit.