Troops used untested vaccine

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The Independent Online
New evidence has emerged that British troops in the Gulf were exposed, against their will, to vaccinations which were unlicensed and untested, writes Ian Burrell.

The American manufacturers of a plague vaccine have denied that the batch cited on the medical records of British soldiers was ever given to the British authorities. It said the vaccine was to be given on a named-patient basis only. Furthermore, nerve agent protection (pyridostigmine bromide) tablets which troops took every day during the war were not licensed until August 1993, more than two years after the conflict.

The new evidence, which has been passed to Earl Howe, the Defence Minister, will compound the scandal over the use of organophosphate pesticides in the Gulf.

Sick veterans say that they have been assured by the Ministry of Defence that the inoculations they were given were licensed and obtained from regular sources. Yet Miles Inc, the American manufacturer of the Cutter plague vaccine identified on the medical cards of British troops, denied that the named batch, 10H03A, was sent to the British authorities. The company said its sole customer for the vaccine was the United States government, which did not use plague vaccine in the Gulf.

Plague vaccine was licensed in the US and Canada but not in the UK, where it was available on a named-patient basis only.

The MoD maintains troops were given vaccinations on the basis of voluntary informed consent, but veterans said they were given little choice. Larry Cammock, a medic with the Royal Army Medical Corps, said in a sworn statement: "I was told we had to have inoculations and that they had published the order on a notice board saying it was a court martial offence to refuse."