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 Wednesday, 8 January, 2003, 10:02 GMT
Troops' fears over anthrax vaccine
Soldiers at Army Infantry Training School, north Yorkshire
Troops will not be forced to have vaccines, say ministers
Troops being sent to the gulf ahead of a possible war with Iraq have expressed concern about the safety of anthrax vaccines they are being given.

The Gulf War Veterans and Families Association says it has been inundated with enquiries from servicemen worried about the possible side-effects of the vaccine.

The group said it had also heard from troops who said they had become ill after receiving the jab.

Individuals who have contacted our helpline have said they are feeling ill and their mates are feeling ill

Tony Flint, GWVFA
However, ministers have insisted the vaccine is safe and that no one will be forced to have it against their will.

Tony Flint of the GWVFA said its telephone helpline had received many calls in recent weeks from concerned troops.

The GWVFA represents thousands of servicemen who believe their health suffered after they were given a cocktail of vaccinations in the 1991 Gulf War.

Worried

Mr Flint told the BBC: "Regular servicemen have been phoning us worried about the vaccine, asking for our advice, because they know, like we know, the vaccines are a major cause of our illnesses.

"From what we have learnt so far, members of the Parachute Regiment have already had the anthrax vaccine and they are reporting to us that they are getting side-effects.

"Individuals who have contacted our helpline have said they are feeling ill and their mates are feeling ill."

I can assure you the vaccine is safe

Dr Lewis Moonie, Defence Minister
Mr Flint raised concern over the tests carried out on the vaccines before they were given.

"The British haven't done any real test work on it all," he claimed.

"All our evidence comes from the States and from their evidence, 30% of those that receive the vaccine become ill and six have died."

Joyce Riley, of the American Gulf War Association, also expressed concern.

"My concern about the anthrax vaccine is that it has been proven to be unsafe. It is not a tested vaccine.

"What we are seeing from those who have been given the vaccine is usually something to do with blackouts, with seizures and motor problems.

"We are finding that these people become affected by skin lesions, they develop sores and problems that just never go away."

Vaccine 'is safe'

But defence minister Lewis Moonie insisted that the vaccine is safe.

He told the BBC: "I can assure you that it has been given to many, many people over a long period of time and there has never been a case of serious side-effects. Not one case.

"Of course it's been tested. It is not widely tested, because anthrax is not a common disease, but it is given very widely.

"I can assure you the vaccine is safe. It has side-effects - all vaccines like this do.

"You may get soreness at the site of injection and you may get a flu-like illness after it. But there are no serious complications."

Dr Moonie added: "It is being offered to people who may be going into a theatre where they may be exposed to it.

"It's being offered to them on a voluntary basis and nobody is compelled to have it."

Troops were given large amounts of information about vaccines they were offered and were able to discuss any concerns with medical officers, he said.


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07 Jan 03 | Politics
17 Oct 01 | Americas
15 Oct 01 | Health
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