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EDITIONS
 Friday, 24 January, 2003, 11:43 GMT
Anthrax vaccine risk row
Anthrax
Troops are offered a vaccine to protect against anthrax
The government has denied troops are being asked to sign waivers to say they will not claim compensation if they become ill after having vaccinations.

There had been reports that soldiers preparing to go to the Gulf were being asked to sign the waiver when they were given jabs, including the anthrax vaccine.

The wife of an RAF solider from Bury St Edmunds, wrote to the Daily Telegraph to say her husband, who is about to leave for the Gulf, had been asked to sign a waiver when he was offered vaccinations.

She wrote: "He was told, if he wanted to have these jabs, he had to sign a disclaimer saying that, if he had illness in the future, he couldn't claim compensation."

We have no intention of asking people to sign waivers

Dr Lewis Moonie, Defence Minister
She added: "I am disgusted that these men and women are being sent possibly to fight a war that no one wants and, besides worrying about the immediate danger they could be exposed to, have the long-term worry of 'could I get ill from these inoculations and who will protect me if I do."

The National Gulf Veterans and Families Association said earlier in the week that it had been contacted by a female member of 16 Air Assault Brigade who said she had been asked to sign a waiver.

It has also expressed concerns over the safety of the vaccine.

Shaun Ruisling, chairman of the association, said: "These are great concerns.

"It seems to be the case that soldiers are damned if they do have the vaccine and damned if they don't."

'Opposite'

But Lewis Moonie, defence minister told BBC Radio 4's Today programme that soldiers were "categorically not" being asked to sign waivers.

"They are not being asked to sign.

"When someone refuses a vaccination, not when they take one, a record is kept - signed by the doctor and the person - to say they understand they have been offered the vaccination and they have refused to do it.

"So it's the exact opposite of what's being said."

Dr Moonie said the Ministry of Defence had very good public health reasons for wanting its troops to take all the vaccinations on offer, including anthrax.

He said they were told they should have the vaccines, but it was still voluntary.

He said it was safe and had been given for many years without any cases of serious side effects being noted.

However, he admitted that full immunisation took about six months, but there was some immediate protection from the jab.

"If anybody thinks they have been asked to sign any kind of waiver, I would ask them to get in touch with us, and we will put their minds at rest.

"We have no intention of asking people to sign waivers. We will not do it. And, as far as I know, we are not doing it at present."

See also:

08 Jan 03 | Health
18 Jul 02 | UK
02 Oct 01 | Health
27 Jul 00 | Health
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