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Armed Forces: Influenza

Volume 486: debated on Monday 12 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 17 June 2008, Official Report, on influenza: disease control, what lessons to enhance the robustness and resilience of the system were identified in Operation United Endeavour II; in what ways these lessons are being addressed; and if he will make a statement. (245606)

I have been asked to reply.

Wherever possible, the information systems used in a pandemic will be based on existing surveillance arrangements for seasonal influenza. Following United Endeavour II, technical work has been undertaken to facilitate daily provision, in a pandemic, of data relating to general practitioner flu consultations and syndromic surveillance from NHS Direct. Work has also been undertaken to confirm the arrangements for co-ordination with equivalent information systems in Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and to ensure that the National Pandemic Flu Line Service will be able to provide necessary additional surveillance information.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 20 June 2008, Official Report, column 1205W, on armed forces: influenza, what proportion of the A/H5N1 vaccine stockpile held by the Department of Health is reserved for use by the armed forces. (245611)

MOD has a total allocation of 108,000 doses of H5N1 vaccine, which is sufficient for 54,000 courses of treatment at two doses per person.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 20 June 2008, Official Report, column 1204W, on armed forces: influenza, at which overseas locations antivirals are currently held; and what the total number of antiviral courses at each location is, broken down by type of antiviral. (245612)

As stated in my previous answer, in accordance with Defence Medical Services guidance, 10 antiviral courses have been pre-positioned in medical facilities overseas; five courses in the role 2 (enhanced) field hospital unit at Basra in Iraq and five at Camp Bastion in Afghanistan.

A further 18,000 antiviral courses for use in the event of an outbreak of pandemic influenza have been distributed to overseas locations where MOD personnel and their dependents are based. To protect the integrity of the stocks in the event of a pandemic, locations and quantities are not placed in the public domain. The quantities have been calculated in accordance with Department of Health guidance; stockholdings are kept under regular review, and there has been no need to change them since June 2008.

To ask the Secretary of State for Defence with reference to the answer of 20 February 2008, Official Report, column 698W, on Armed Forces: influenza, if he will place in the Library a copy of the guidance note entitled Recovery of operational capability in the aftermath of a pandemic; what the titles are of all other guidance notes on which work was ongoing; whether work is ongoing on other guidance notes; and if he will make a statement. (245699)

The generic MOD Pandemic Influenza Framework brings together activities which for the most part will be undertaken by Defence business units and operational commands so that they can put in place the necessary response arrangements before a pandemic emerges. The guidance notes support the key tasks identified in the framework and are in the form of one-page summaries.

All the guidance notes, including the note “Recovery of operational capability in the aftermath of a pandemic”, have now been completed, although as the framework is a live document, they will be subject to regular review and amendment. I will place a copy of the latest version of the MOD Pandemic Influenza Framework containing the key tasks and guidance notes (dated October 2008) in the Library of the House.