Select Committee on Defence First Special Report


Memorandum from the Ministry of Defence concerning the production of new stock of anthrax vaccine (11 July 2000)

  I wrote to you on 23 December 1999 to update you on progress towards the production of new stocks of anthrax vaccine. I told you that we did not expect to take delivery of new stocks from our supplier, the Centre for Applied Microbiology and Research (CAMR)—a Special Health Authority sponsored by the Department of Health—before the end of July this year.

  The extensive refurbishment of the production facility at CAMR was completed some months ago and another important milestone was recently achieved with the successful inspection of the new facilities by the Medicines Control Agency for the first time. However, as I explained in my earlier letter, progressing from this point to the successful manufacture and licensing of new stocks of the vaccine is a lengthy process and I regret to say it has recently become clear that re-commissioning the vaccine production facilities is likely to take longer than expected. As a result, CAMR will not produce new stocks of vaccine before the end of September.

  Alan Milburn and I are very disappointed by the further delay, but recognise that anthrax vaccine production is a difficult and complex process that must be carried out to the most stringent regulatory standards. Our Departments are doing all they can to ensure that new licensed supplies are available as soon as possible and that, following this, they will continue to be delivered reliably.

  In the meantime, I would emphasise that our deployment to the Gulf region will not be affected. Voluntary immunisation is just one element in the full range of force protection measures against biological weapons that are available to personnel. That said, I attach a high priority to resuming the voluntary immunisation programme against anthrax as soon as practicable. Immunisation provides safe and effective additional protection in the event of exposure to anthrax.

  I have also written to Iain Duncan Smith MP and Menzies Campbell MP to inform them of this.

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Prepared 5 February 2001