30 July 2002 17:27 [Source: ICIS news]
LONDON (CNI)--The UK's Department of Health on Tuesday dismissed a report suggesting that its newly-purchased smallpox vaccine is ineffective.
The report, by the US Potomac Institute, suggests the UK government's choice of the Lister strain vaccine has not been proven to work against endemic smallpox, the form most likely to come from a terrorist attack.
Powderject, the company awarded the contract to supply the vaccine, had previously donated £50 000 ($78 000/Euro79 000) to the country's ruling Labour Party. The £32m contract was awarded without being put out to public tender.
The country's main opposition group, the Conservative Party, called today for an enquiry. Shadow Secretary of State for Health Liam Fox MP said: "If reports are correct, that the government has purchased the wrong vaccine, then that is not only incompetence on a monumental scale but the fact that the contract was given to a middle man who had given a huge donation to the Labour Party is a national scandal."
But Pat Troop, Department for Health deputy chief medical officer, said the decision to choose this vaccine was well researched. He added: "The scientific evidence is that the Lister strain will protect against all known strains of smallpox disease. As Lister-based vaccines were widely and successfully used in India, where the highly virulent forms of the disease were encountered, new vaccine based on the Lister strain was deemed appropriate."
Powderject was not immediately available for comment.
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