Travel Vaccines

Oral Answers to Questions — Health – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 18th June 1996.

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Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West 12:00 am, 18th June 1996

To ask the Secretary of State for Health if he will ensure that travel vaccines continue to be made available on the NHS. [31694]

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Health (Mr. John Bowls):


Photo of Dennis Canavan Dennis Canavan , Falkirk West

Is the Minister aware that last year alone 39 million British people made overseas visits, 16 per cent. of them to areas with a high risk of infection? Will he resist any suggestions that vaccination should cease to be available on the NHS? If he does not, many people may not get vaccinated, which would lead to an increase in the number of infected travellers returning to Britain, thereby increasing costs to the national health service and having a detrimental effect on many people's health.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

The hon. Gentleman makes a fair case for the economic health of the nation that enables so many people to travel abroad, and a good point about travellers needing to take precautions. Just as they need to take out travel insurance, they should consider their health protection. I hope that they will read the "Health Information for Overseas Travel" booklet produced by the Government. The position of successive Governments has been that immunisations are free for travellers where there is considered to be a real risk to public health if a disease is brought back to the United Kingdom. That remains the case. I am happy to join him in resisting any change to that.

Photo of Michael Fabricant Michael Fabricant , Staffordshire Mid

Before my hon. Friend is overcome by generosity, will he bear in mind that many business travellers have their vaccinations paid for by their companies? It is difficult to have sympathy with people who go on exotic holidays to Australia and Thailand who say that they cannot afford to pay for their vaccinations.

Photo of Mr John Bowis Mr John Bowis , Battersea

My hon. Friend makes a fair point. That is why there is a balance in the system whereby vaccinations for diseases that would not be a threat to the remainder of the population if someone were to bring them back from abroad are the responsibility of the individual. As he said, they may be paid for by a company, but the cost is small compared with the overall cost of travel abroad, certainly to the remote places that he mentioned. Where there is a potential public health risk, it is right that the NHS system should be able to provide the service through doctors or clinics.