Gulf War Syndrome II (m) (link)
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|Sat, 06-07-2003 - 8:02am|
Gulf War Syndrome II: Soldier's innoculations too close together
Eleven soldiers have come forward with symptoms that they say were caused by inoculations given before the recent invasion of Iraq. They say the Ministry of Defence failed to honour assurances by the minister, Geoff Hoon, that inoculations would be spread over time.
Mr Hoon told parliament on 20 January that "a key lesson learned about inoculations is that it is not sensible to inflict on our forces a large number of inoculations simultaneously. Preparation in that respect is much better than it was before the Gulf war."
Mark McGhee, the solicitor representing all 11 soldiers, said: "I have examined two of the soldiers’ so called ‘F Med 4’ forms, which are effectively their army GP notes. These confirm that multiple inoculations in relation to these two soldiers were administered over too short a period of time, in contravention of the guidelines issued by the Surgeon General." He said that "on the face of it" the other nine soldiers also received their shots in too short a period of time.
All of the soldiers had acute physical reactions within seven days of their multiple inoculations, according to Mr McGhee. At least two fell ill so quickly that they were never sent to the Gulf. Another fell ill shortly after arriving in Kuwait and has since been medically discharged. Others are still members of the army or the Territorial Army. All have asked that their names be kept secret.
The symptoms, Mr McGhee said, are similar to those normally associated with Gulf war syndrome. Significantly, most of these soldiers were never exposed to burning oil wells, depleted uranium, or other environmental hazards sometimes proposed as causes of the syndrome.
Clinical tests are ongoing, and new cases are still coming forward. No final decision has yet been taken on whether to take legal proceedings, which, said Mr McGhee, would include "not just potential civil compensation claims, but also war pensions and, where appropriate, employment related matters. Almost certainly, the MoD will take issue with the soldiers’ account of events. I have never known them not to."
A Ministry of Defence spokesman said the ministry follows Department of Health guidelines that demand that anthrax and smallpox vaccinations not be given within five days of other vaccinations. This limit is occasionally breached in cases of emergency deployment, he said.
Last week the Medical Research Council published a review of evidence on the syndrome that concluded that "there is no evidence from UK or international research for a single syndrome related specifically to service in the Gulf."
Shaun Rusling, who won a landmark War Pensions Tribunal decision last year that said his illness was caused by the first Gulf War, said publication of the ministry funded report had been timed to influence judges deliberating a government appeal in his case. A spokeswoman for the council denied this, saying that newspapers were wrong to characterise the report as dismissing Gulf war syndrome. "Everyone agrees the veterans are ill," she said.