§ Lord Morris of Manchester
asked Her Majesty's Government:
What percentage of service personnel now available for deployment in the event of a resumption of hostilities against Iraq have been vaccinated against anthrax, whether any of them have suffered side effects; and whether the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research at Porton Down is content that combining the anthrax vaccine with other vaccines and protective measures could not involve harmful long-term side effects. [HL385]
§ The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Ministry of Defence (Lord Bach)
No decisions have yet been made concerning military action against Iraq.58WA
Up to and including November 2002, the period for which most recent figures are available, approximately 46 per cent of personnel offered immunisation against anthrax had accepted. Thus far, immunisation against anthrax has been targeted at a small number of personnel in the most readily deployable units. Of the total strength of the Armed Forces, excluding reserves, approximately 2.5 per cent have been immunised against anthrax. No serious adverse reactions have been reported.
The United Kingdom anthrax vaccine is manufactured by the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research to UK regulatory standards. It is licensed and independent medical advice confirms that it is safe and effective. It has been used for many years by both the Armed Forces and civilian occupations such as laboratory workers and veterinarians. There is no evidence to suggest that any have suffered any long-term ill health as result.
Earlier this year we announced a decision to expand the programme so that ultimately all service personnel, including reserves, and those essential civilians who are likely to deploy on operations are routinely offered immunisation against anthrax. I refer the noble Lord to the Answer I gave on 13 June 2002, (WA47) to the noble Lord, Lord Christopher. As personnel are immunised against anthrax routinely and in advance, there should be no need to administer the anthrax vaccine alongside any other vaccines or protective measures. If service personnel due to deploy are not up to date with their immunisations, as with any medical treatment, the offer of immunisation would take full account of any other treatment or medication an individual might be receiving at the same time.