The Israeli MOD's claim that the Israeli anthrax vaccine "is as safe as the anthrax vaccine developed by the US" provides scant support for Israel's vaccine.
The Defense Ministry will pay out tens of thousands shekels in compensation to every one of the 716 soldiers and officers who agreed to take part in a once secret anthrax vaccine trial, following a compromise deal to settle lawsuits filed by dozens of volunteers who suffered negative side effects after being injected.
The vaccine trial, named Omer 2, took place between 1998 and 2006, and sought volunteers from elite IDF units. Following the trial, a number of participants complained of side effects such as breathing problems and skin conditions.
Ninety one soldiers who sued the Defense Ministry will receive NIS 36,000 each, while the remainder of the trial’s participants will receive NIS 27,000 each, amounting to a compensation package of more than NIS 20 million.
In a joint statement released by the Defense and Justice ministries, the state denied wrongdoing, saying, “More than a decade ago, the defense establishment concluded that Israeli civilians and soldiers faced a tangible threat from anthrax attacks, possibly via missile attacks, and that defense measures were essential against this unconventional threat. In line with this assessment, the Defense Ministry began developing a vaccine in Israel which was based on an American vaccine, in order to provide a solution to members of the security forces and civilians.”
The statement added that military medical researchers who developed the vaccine “did not expect any dangerous side effects,” and that “the vaccine used in the research contains materials that exist in many vaccines given to babies on a regular basis, such as for tetanus and hepatitis.”
The research “was carried out in the safest way” on volunteers, the statement continued.
Defense figures said they took into account the fact that those who sued were volunteers, and as a result, the Defense Ministry decided to settle the issue through compensation, it said.
The Medical Research Administration, which operates under the IDF’s Chief Medical Officer, will provide care for volunteers, while a financial fund will be created to handle compensation payments.
During the trial period, 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 went on to suffer side effects.
The trial program had in the past been severely criticized by the Israel Medical Association.
In 2009, the Defense Ministry, responding to lawsuits and criticism, said, “Thanks to Omer 2, Israel has a medical reply 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.” It went on to say that the Israeli vaccine is as safe as the anthrax vaccine developed by the US.
Those who sued raised questions over the way the vaccine trial was conducted, and challenged the adequacy of the monitoring of volunteers and the subsequent care provided to them.