- LONDON - Probing mysterious ailments suffered by Gulf War veterans,
Armed Forces Minister John Reid said Tuesday the troops were given vaccines
that were not licensed in Britain.
- The soldiers, who feared a threat of
biological and chemical attack from Iraq, were given a mixture of vaccinations
despite warnings from health department officials.
- Giving details of a major probe, Reid
told reporters: "I am committed to doing all I can to get rid of the
distrust which has built up over the years between the Ministry of Defense
and those who served their country in the (Persian) Gulf."
- Britain's Labor government has boosted
research and increased treatment for veterans since it came to power in
- Veterans, campaigning for official recognition
of Gulf War syndrome, believe illnesses result from a cocktail of chemicals
given to the troops in the 1991 war to drive Iraqi forces out of Kuwait.
- The symptoms include asthma, chronic
fatigue, depression and skin ailments. About 51,000 British troops served
in the war, and up to 4,000 veterans and members of their families are
ill. Similar illnesses have struck many American veterans of the war.
- Reid, giving details of the vaccines
given to troops, stressed that it was not an open-and-shut case. Many of
the vaccines had been licensed abroad in the United States, France and
- "The fact that a medical product
is unlicensed does not mean that it is untested or inherently safe,"
his ministry's report on the vaccines said.
- "The licensing of medicines is a
rigorous, time-consuming and expensive process," it added.
- The anthrax vaccine took 32 weeks to
become effective and it was found the period could be shortened if a whooping
cough vaccine was added as a booster.
- But health department officials warned
after tests on mice that "when combined there was evidence of severe
loss of condition and weight loss."
- Reid, who also announced the probe to
parliament, pointed out that it had been urgent to act in the time leading
up to war as the coalition sought to repel Iraqi troops from Kuwait.