Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Israeli Ministries take 'full responsibility' for anthrax vaccine trials

Mar. 4, 2009
Yaakov Lappin

The Defense Ministry, Health Ministry and IDF said they took "full responsibility" for all side effects suffered by participants in a test of an anthrax vaccine, in a joint statement issued Wednesday.

The statement will be submitted to the High Court next week as a reply to petitions submitted by two IDF soldiers who took part in the trial and suffered negative aftereffects.

The petitioners raised questions about the way the vaccine trial was conducted, and are claiming the monitoring of volunteers and subsequent care provided to them was inadequate.

The vaccine trial, code-named Omer 2, took place between 1998 and 2006, and sought volunteers from elite IDF units. Following the test, a number of participants complained of breathing problems and skin conditions.

A quarter of participants were given an American version of the vaccine, while 75 percent were injected with the Israeli vaccine, which had not been previously tested. Members of both groups suffered side effects.

According to the statement, which was released by the Defense Ministry, 716 soldiers took part in the trial, and 11 later required medical treatment.

"Volunteers were given a detailed explanation about the vaccination, the study, and potential side effects. They were given a sheet to study and sign," the statement said.

"All of the soldiers who requested medical care received it," it added.

The Defense Ministry went on to describe Omer 2 as a project with "strategic importance for the State of Israel," adding, "Thanks to Omer 2, Israel has a medical response for the general public against a most severe threat. We thank the volunteers and appreciate their willingness to take part in this important trial, and their contribution to the general security of residents of Israel."

The vaccine is as safe as the anti-anthrax vaccine developed by the US, the Defense Ministry said.

Academic experts and oversight committees within the IDF closely monitored the vaccine trial, the statement added.

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