Category: Archive

Report due on orphans chosen to test vaccines

February 16, 2011

By Staff Reporter

By Andrew Bushe

DUBLIN — A long-awaited Irish government report into the use of children in children’s homes and orphanages in drug vaccine tests in the 1960s and ’70s is due to be published on Nov. 8.

The report by the chief medical officer of the Department of Health, Dr. James Kiely, is expected to be made public under parliamentary privilege by being released through the all-party Oireachtas Committee on Health and Children.

Last April, opposition TDs failed to have the Dail suspended to discuss its findings.

Taoiseach Bertie Ahern said that after legal advice, draft copies of the report were being provided on a confidential basis to the Eastern Health Board, Southern Health Board, the Glaxo drug company and Professor Irene Hillery.

All are mentioned in the report and lawyers said they should be given the opportunity to make observations on the contents prior to its publication.

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The vaccines in the tests were for polio, diphtheria, pertussis (whooping cough), rubella (German measles) and tetanus and the studies were undertaken in 1960-61 and in 1973.

Five of the institutions involved in the tests are believed to be in the Dublin area and one in Cork.

The report will examine whether some tests may have been conducted without the consent of parents or guardians and whether some children may have been left more susceptible to illness.

The Department of Health has said the medical officers attending the homes gave their permission for the administration of the vaccines and were perceived to be acting in loco parentis.

The 1960-61 study, involving 52 children in five orphanages, compared 3-in-1 vaccines for diphtheria, tetanus and pertussis and a separate polio immunization with a 4-in-1 combination vaccine for all the illnesses.

In the 1973 study, 116 children were involved — 59 children living in the community and 57 from two children’s homes in the Dublin area.

The report’s findings could lead to compensation claims from people who were in care when they were children.

The report was commissioned by then Health Minister Brian Cowen in 1997.

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