asked the Minister for Health if in view of World Health Organisation reports that Hong Kong influenza is now widespread in Europe and appears to be spreading in the UK he is satisfied that there are sufficient stocks of vaccine in this country and that health authorities here are adequately alerted to the situation bearing in mind shortage of nurses, staffing problems, etc.; and if he has any views to justify the use of the vaccine in industry so as to prevent a loss of working days and a cut back in production through illness.
Ceisteanna—Questions, Oral Answers. - Hong Kong Influenza.
Health authorities and their chief medical officers have been reminded of the need to maintain a position of preparedness to deal with an influenza epidemic which might occur in this country. They have also been requested to inform my Department promptly of any significant incidence of flu in their areas.
The authorities have also been informed that my Department has made arrangements with suppliers to reserve sufficient supplies of influenza vaccine for issue through health authorities to cover priority groups including persons medically at risk, persons in county homes and mental hospitals; persons in institutions for the care of the aged and chronic sick; hospital staffs; health authority staffs employed on field medical services and general medical practitioners. Apart from these supplies of vaccine, I understand that suppliers have at present vaccine available for distribution generally.
There are considerable difficulties in making a precise assessment of the benefits of the use of influenza vaccine in industry but I would, nevertheless, commend it to employers as a measure which they might consider adopting with a view to the prevention of illness amongst their staffs and the consequent loss in working days.