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Why won't government doctors give us the facts? 5/2/02
DR PAT TROOP:
For national security reasons we
haven't given out details of any of
our medical countermeasures, and
that's the same for many other
It's not the same for the US.
Today we have heard, very
clearly from President Bush,
there's this huge boost in his
budget for measures to fight
bioterrorism and a smallpox vaccine
dose for every citizen.
Well, that's the choice of the Americans,
but this Government and many other
governments have decided that for
national security reasons they
don't want to disclose the level of
medical countermeasures. We think
it's information that other people
who we don't want to have that
information would find helpful.
Given the fact that smallpox can
travel, how would we persuade other
countries to pass on or pool their
First of all, we have been doing a
lot of work with other countries.
We have signed an agreement with
the Americans about sharing our
approach to these issues. There was
a meeting with a number of other
countries - a G7 plus Mexico - and
they're coming over to London for a
conference in March. There is now a
health security committee in Europe
which brings together all the
European committees. All of this is
where we are sharing a lot of
information, sharing how we are
planning and making sure that
should anything happen we work in a
very co-ordinated way.
With respect, you're not
sharing information with
the people who matter, which is the
general public. You're not telling
us how much vaccine you've actually
got. Isn't it the case, since the
BSE crisis, that the old nanny
state approach of saying, "Don't
worry, we've got it in hand"
doesn't work any more?
I don't think this is nanny state. When
we have talked to the public and
questioned people about it,
they haven't wanted to know how
much vaccine they've got. They want
to be sure that we have put
effective plans in place. When we
have explained that we have done,
people are just happy to get on
with their life.
Have you got one dose per person?
I told you, we're not going to
tell you how much vaccine
we have for security reasons.
We do have effective plans.
We have strategic stocks. We've
obviously kept that under very,
very close review since September
11th, and we will continue to keep
things under review. I think in
terms of our preparedness - because
of our public health system,
because of all the planning we've
done - we are in as good a position
as any other country to be able to
cope with this problem.
The last case in this country, indeed
the world, was in Birmingham
in 1978. The woman concerned, who
later died, was seen by three GPs
who didn't diagnose smallpox. Would
a GP now diagnose it?
I would hope so. We did send out very
detailed guidance for doctors in October.
It's all there on the public health
service website with pictures. We
are building up training programmes.
It is important that we build into
all the training programmes of
doctors and other health
professionals the first signs of
any of the major bioterrorism
diseases, and we will keep
refreshing that training to make
sure it stays up in their minds as
a potential diagnosis should they
see it. So I think we are working
pretty hard to make sure that they
could do so.
Dr Troop, thanks very much.