Select Committee on Defence Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1080 - 1093)



  1080. This is a medical question. To fulfil that scenario how many vaccines do you require?
  (Dr Troop) That would depend on a whole range of scenarios depending on how an outbreak started. There are many different ways in which it could start.

  1081. Worst scenario, for example?
  (Dr Troop) One worst scenario could be—

  1082. I can see you are trying to avoid answering the question.
  (Dr Troop) No, I am not trying to avoid the question.


  1083. Honestly, Kevan, I think it is complicated.
  (Dr Troop) What I am saying is it is not a straight forward issue, it is a very complex issue about the kind of smallpox attack one could have, and we have no evidence that we are likely to have one. We have modelled the potential different scenarios. If one looks at the pattern of response which was carried out in the worldwide eradication where we have a huge worldwide experience, the experience then was not mass vaccination of the population, that was not the way that it was eradicated.

Mr Jones

  1084. Can you stop trying to talk me out? Can I ask you a specific question? You have said there is a model, how many vaccines do you actually require for the model which you will use in the UK in the response? You have said it is not one per person, I accept that, so what is it? How many do you need for that model you have got from the World Health Organisation?
  (Dr Troop) I have not got in front of me a figure of the number of people who might be affected by the different scenarios. For me to pluck a figure out from different scenarios I think would be quite wrong in this session.

  1085. Could you write to us on that, that would be very helpful. Can I say ten out of ten, I am sure your masters in Whitehall will be very proud of you for not answering the questions.
  (Dr Troop) That was not my intention. It was to explain the complexity of this situation.

  Chairman: As this area is not one which instantly falls within the remit of the Defence Committee but we have an interest, it would be helpful if you could give us an indication of the literature. Secondly, the decision was highly controversial and I would be amazed if one of our sister committees was not looking at this in rather more detail. I am afraid, as far as we are concerned, the time available does not allow us to explore the position beyond what we have done. Certainly if we did decide to do it, you are absolutely correct it is above your grade. Well, I am not saying above your grade but a decision would be made above your level. We might decide to pursue that further. We just have a couple more questions.

Mr Howarth

  1086. Can I just follow this up with Dr Troop. There is very considerable public disquiet, if not to say amazement, that a British company which is supplying the vaccine for every citizen in the United States was ruled out of this equation here and there was no open competition as there was in the United States. It is my understanding, I wonder if you could help us on this, that although the Minister, Lord Hunt of Kings Heath said, in the House of Lords last week that ". . . five companies were approached to see whether they could meet the specifications. It is very clear a number of companies were given the opportunity to put forward their case for being chosen." I understand, certainly in the case of one company, the company supplying the United States, that they were asked if they could supply but there was no follow up. Can you tell us whether those British companies, the five, were all invited to make submissions or were they just phoned up and asked "Can you supply"?
  (Dr Troop) There were meetings with all five against an agreed set of procedures for each meeting which were identical. Then each company was sent a detailed list of information for a specification, exactly the same, then the information was received back from all of them. Only one company met the requirement we had to provide the vaccine that we wanted in the timescale that we needed.

  1087. Can you explain what those requirements were and can you explain also to us why it was decided to choose a different vaccine dealing with a different strain from that chosen by the United States?
  (Dr Troop) The questions that were sent were quite long and complex and they were around obviously a whole range of capabilities from them and timescales and so on.

  1088. Presumably it was timescales and it was costs?
  (Dr Troop) Yes, and about licensing and so on, there are a whole complex range of issues around vaccines which one would ask about manufacturing and so on. There was quite a long list of questions about quality because there were quite a lot of different issues which were technical issues which were asked of all these companies.

  1089. Is it true that you are also paying the costs of the licensing process of this PowderJect vaccine whereas companies supplying the United States are paying their own costs to meet the US licensing requirements?
  (Dr Troop) No. All we have paid for is the cost of the vaccine.

  1090. It is not true that you are paying their licensing costs?
  (Dr Troop) No.

  Chairman: Right. Thank you very much. I am sure there are more questions to be asked but it will not be this morning. The last question, Frank.

Mr Roy

  1091. A final question. You touched earlier on anthrax, what lessons have you learnt from the United States' experience of the anthrax campaign last year?
  (Dr Troop) We have learned a huge amount. Clearly our PHLS colleagues were in almost daily contact with the Americans during the time that we were getting the scares because at any one stage we did not know if any one was going to be real so we were planning as though they were going to be real. We were in regular contact to make sure that we had the latest information and the latest sharing of knowledge. In fact one of our experts advised them in the States because we have a lot of expertise in this country. Since then we have had an international agreement with the Americans that we would share information and planning and so on and now this has been broadened out into the G7 plus Mexico and there have been two ministerial conferences and lots of interaction of officials in between. A team of our staff both from the PHLS and from the Department have been to the CDC to work through with them all the lessons that they learnt and have brought those back to build into our planning. We have a very good relationship with the Americans and we have been doing a lot of joint work to understand the lessons.

  1092. I understand you are speaking to the Americans. More specifically, what lessons have you learned?
  (Dr Troop) I think one of the key ones was the issue they learned about having the right infrastructure. It was this issue about any response must be based on a sound system because it is an add-on and therefore it has reinforced and pushed us even more into making sure we have the sound infrastructure. Also, we have learnt more about the capability, we have looked at how one might use anthrax in different ways and we have looked at the way they responded with the antibiotics and the decontamination, all those different specific aspects of technical aspects we have learned that we have been able to build into our plans. It has made our plans much more robust.

  Mr Roy: Okay.


  1093. Thank you very much. That was a very interesting session. If there is any additional information that you feel we ought to be sent, not the least being the modelling, make it as complicated as you like and we will test Mr Jones on it after he has read it. I am sure it is immensely complicated.
  (Dr Troop) Okay.

  Chairman: We have additional questions, I am sorry we were not able to talk to you much longer but we have time constraints. Thank you all for coming and I am sure we will hear from you further.

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