TROOPS bound for Iraq were wrongly told anthrax vaccine
Cameron Stewart
TROOPS bound for Iraq were wrongly told anthrax vaccine
Sun Feb 29 15:25:40 2004

Anthrax: Vital fact the diggers weren't told
By Cameron Stewart
February 28, 2004,5744,8809646%255E31477,00.html

TROOPS bound for Iraq were wrongly told anthrax vaccine did not contain squalene - the chemical blamed by veterans for causing Gulf War syndrome.

Defence only admitted the existence of squalene in the vaccine in March last year, after the troops had deployed to the Middle East.

However, military doctors said that the amount of squalene in the anthrax vaccine was small and did not pose any health risks.

The incident is further evidence of how the Australian Defence Force's anthrax vaccination program was bungled, with key health information withheld from troops.

The Weekend Australian last week reported soldiers being sent to Iraq were not told that up to 75 per cent of troops in Afghanistan a year earlier suffered severe, temporary side effects from the vaccine and that as a result the program had to be suspended.

Veterans of the 1991 Gulf War believe the anthrax vaccine they were given contained squalene and that this may be the cause of a range of health problems known as Gulf War syndrome.

The presence of squalene in the anthrax vaccine was denied in the US until tests in late 2000 found traces occurred naturally in the vaccine.

Yet an information bulletin about the anthrax vaccine placed on the ADF's website on February 11, 2003 - after most troops had left for Iraq - said: "Anthrax vaccine used by the ADF does not contain squalene."

A background briefing paper authorised a week earlier by the chief defence doctor, Air Commodore Tony Austin, says "squalene has never been identified as being present in batches of anthrax vaccine".

This was contrary to what the US military was saying. The official US military website on the anthrax vaccine states that squalene had been identified in the vaccine, although it was "naturally occurring and safe".

It was not until March 18 - after 42 sailors had been recalled from the Gulf after refusing vaccinations - that the ADF finally admitted on its website that squalene was present in the vaccine.

On that day, frequently asked questions on the anthrax vaccine included the following: "Does either type of the anthrax vaccines used by the ADF contain squalene?"

The answer read: "Anthrax vaccine used by the ADF may contain insignificant amounts of squalene (which is) a chemical obtained from the cartilage of sharks."

This week, following the anthrax reports in The Weekend Australian, deputy navy chief Rear Admiral Rowan Moffitt issued a message to all ships admitting to previous problems with the vaccine but assuring crews that it was perfectly safe.

However, he admitted personnel deployed to Afghanistan had suffered severe, temporary side effects after taking the vaccine.

"There has never been a reasonable explanation for the greater than normal level of reactions that occurred in Afghanistan and Defence Health continues to examine the matter." The navy also admitted for the first time that 97 crew of HMAS Darwin reported ill after receiving the vaccine.

Searched the web for anthrax vaccine.

Main Page -03/01/04

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