Vaccine trials ‘must be part of inquiry’

Campaigners have called for vaccine trials to be included in the upcoming mother and baby home inquiry, after it emerged a previously unknown fifth trial was carried out on children here in the 1960s.

Vaccine trials ‘must be part of inquiry’

The trial, revealed in yesterday’s Irish Examiner, was carried out in 1965 on 34 children.

Uncovered by Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History in an article in The Lancet in August of 1965, the measles trial was carried out by Irene Hillary and Patrick Meenan of UCD’s microbiology department and AJ Beale of Glaxo Laboratories.

It is the first trial uncovered which specifically references Glaxo Laboratories, as all previous trials carried out in Ireland were done by GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) legacy firm — Wellcome.

Although the report does not specify where the trial took place, the reference to the reaction to the vaccines being monitored by “the adults looking after the children” and the fact that follow-ups were done on all the children from day six to day 14 at 6pm, seem to indicate that the children were in a group setting.

Claire McGettrick of the Adoption Rights Alliance said questions needed to be asked why previous investigations failed to uncover this trial. She called on GSK to reveal where this trial was carried out.

“Practices such as vaccine trials reduced these children to the status of mere commodities to be used by church, state and pharmaceutical companies as they saw fit,” she said.

“Questions must now be asked as to why previous investigations and audits failed to reveal this trial.”

Ms McGettrick said the revelations now meant Children’s Minister Dr James Reilly had to include vaccine trials and related practices in the upcoming Commission of Investigation into Mother and Baby Homes.

Paul Redmond of the Coalition of Mother and Baby Home Survivors said the revelations highlighted the need for the upcoming inquiry to have the widest terms of reference possible.

“We were appalled to learn of yet more secret vaccine trials carried out on the most vulnerable children in the State after Monday’s revelations in the Irish Examiner. ”

In a statement, GSK said any trials it carried out in Ireland were done by independent healthcare professionals to the highest safety and ethical standards to help treat illnesses that were a major public health risk.

“If we had evidence that the study had taken place in a mother-and-baby home, we would have submitted it to the Laffoy Commission — we provided copies of historic documents we had on file that were relevant to that investigation.”

GSK said it was “seeking to investigate the facts regarding these studies” and would co-operate with any government inquiry.

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