Examination of Witnesses (Questions 1060
WEDNESDAY 24 APRIL 2002
1060. No, no, I do not accept that. Let us pin
it down. When were you asked as a Department to start the work
on this national stockpile for smallpox vaccine?
(Dr Troop) Can I in a separateAs I say, our
planning is not new and therefore I would not want
Mr Jones: No, no.
1061. Wait for the answer and then come back
(Dr Troop) We have been reviewing aspects of our counter-measures
for some time and therefore I think if you want me to give details
of that I would rather give that in a separate written response.
1062. Can you give me a date when it was actually
(Dr Troop) I would rather send a note.
1063. If you cannot, can you write to us about
(Dr Troop) I would rather give you a response in writing
to our review of our counter-measures.
1064. An open response.
(Dr Troop) No.
Chairman: No, we will decide whether or not
it is made public or kept private.
1065. I cannot see what is so difficult about
the date when the decision was taken. If I can move on, about
the tendering process in terms of acquiring the national stockpile
which has created a lot of publicity recently and the decision
to award a contract to PowderJect without going to tender. Why
was it thought that we would do that in this country whereas in
the United States there was an open tendering process?
(Dr Troop) I cannot speak for the United States. The
approach we have had all the time with our counter-measures, before
and since 11 September, is to always indicate that we do have
a range of medical counter-measures and that they are kept under
review. The details of the volume and the place of those we have
not indicated. It was considered that was information which would
be of help to those who might wish to do us harm.
1066. That is nonsense. You are insulting my
intelligence here. The fact of the matter is that the MoD and
Government agencies every day of the week place classified contracts
with their suppliers. If you are saying that, and I do not accept
frankly this is a national security issue, why not have tendered
it anyway with those companies underlining that it was a classified
(Dr Troop) Can I say that what we did do was we did
not go out in open tender but we approached a number of different
companies in a way where we received very clear advice on a procurement
approach. A number of different companies were approached in a
standard way and in a way which we have had very clear advice
has been in a proper manner to come out with a clear decision
about where we should go. The process that we went through, once
the decision was madethe decision about the openness on
this is a wider one than us as professionalshaving made
that decision we then made sure that the process that we followed
was a fair and proper process and one which then also gave value
for money for the Department of Health.
1067. It is value for money?
(Dr Troop) Yes. We have had clear advice from our
procurement, from our legal people and also we checked it up very
carefully with our Permanent Secretary.
1068. Is it not a fact that this vaccine has
been provided by PowderJect? It has not been manufactured by them,
it has been manufactured in Germany by a company called Bavarian
Nordic. Would it not have been cheaper to have sourced it from
(Dr Troop) We approached the manufacturer directly.
They were only prepared to work through their sole distributor
in the UK.
1069. PowderJect are acting as the middleman
for the Government acquiring this vaccine?
(Dr Troop) As I say, we approached a number of companies.
Obviously having approached all these companies in very close
confidence, the details of their contracts I think are therefore
commercially confidential. What is true is, yes, it is Bavarian
Nordic who are making the vaccine.
1070. Therefore it would have been cheaper to
go direct to them, would it not?
(Dr Troop) As I explained, we did go directly to them
and they would not work directly with us. They required us to
go through their supplier.
1071. Could we not find another company that
we could have acquired it from directly?
(Dr Troop) We went to five companies. There was only
one source where we could get the vaccine that we wanted within
the timescale that we wanted. That has been laid very clearly
in front of the Permanent Secretary and many others to demonstrate
that there was only one company which could meet the specification
which we laid down in the timescale that we had.
1072. Time is getting on. PowderJect are basically
acting as middlemen, not producing it.
(Dr Troop) They are not actually producing it, no.
1073. Therefore the taxpayer is paying the middleman
to get this stockpile?
(Dr Troop) It is paying for vaccine against which,
as I say, having checked it through with others in the Department,
we consider to be value for money.
1074. What is the price? What are PowderJect
getting as the middleman? What are they making out of each vaccine?
(Dr Troop) I do not know how much they are making.
That would be their commercial confidence. We have a commercial
contract, the details of which it would be completely inappropriate
for us to put in the public domain.
1075. I have it in front of me here if you want
to know about it. It is a pound for each vaccine.
(Dr Troop) As I say, the information we have is commercial
confidential, I think it would be quite wrong for me to put that
into the public domain.
1076. Quickly moving on, I accept time is getting
on. In terms of the vaccine which you have actually acquired,
I understand there are only something like 20 million doses so
if there was an outbreak some of our citizens are not going to
be covered, are they?
(Dr Troop) Again, we have not revealed the volume
of the overall stockpile that we have for smallpox vaccine.
(Dr Troop) For the same reasons I said before, we
have not given out details from the Department of Health of the
level and the range of all of our counter-measures. That was a
decision that was taken early on. It is one that has been kept
to throughout this process, this is not new. This has been the
approach we have taken. As I say, we have been very open with
a wide range of information from the Department. We have given
lots of information on the website about all aspects of our planning.
We have always made it very clear that we have a range of counter-measures
and we keep these constantly under review and development. The
NHS knows the range of counter-measures that it can get hold of,
it knows how to get hold of them and therefore the information
that is in the public domain is balanced between what you obviously
said you did not accept, the issue of national security, with
the openness of people.
1078. What is the national security? The Americans
clearly do not think there is one.
(Dr Troop) As I say, this is a cross Government issue.
As a public health official you are asking me to have a discussion
about things which are, I think, wider issues than those of myself
as a public health doctor and the head of this planning section.
1079. Let me put a medical question to you then
if you cannot answer the other questions. Would it be a good idea
then for us to have a vaccine for every single person in Britain?
Clearly people in some areas if there is a widespread outbreak
are going to lose out, are they not? There is not a vaccine for
(Dr Troop) I think there are different scenarios for
which one would plan. If one goes to the WHO guidance on how to
respond to a smallpox attack, that is not the basis of their guidance.
If you look at the WHO guidance it is very much on an identify
and contain. That approach to managing smallpox was endorsed at
an international conference earlier this year. I think the WHO
guidance, which is accepted worldwide, is terribly important in