Dr Reilly’s department also declined to state whether or not the latest revelations would lead to the issue being included in the upcoming investigation into mother and baby homes.
The admission comes after the Department of Health confirmed earlier this week that it had “no information” on where, or in what institution, the fifth trial was carried out.
Uncovered by Michael Dwyer of University of Cork’s school of history from an article in The Lancet in 1965, and revealed by the Irish Examiner on Monday, the measles trial was carried out in 1965 on 34 infants by Glaxo Laboratories — a legacy company of pharmaceutical giant GlaxoSmithKline (GSK).
GSK has previously only admitted to four vaccine trials having ever been carried out in Ireland.
Earlier this summer, the UCC historian uncovered evidence that Wellcome Burroughs trialled a vaccine for diptheria on more than 2,000 children in residential institutions between 1930 and 1935.
In a statement, the Department of Children and Youth Affairs confirmed the minister “had not been in contact with any pharmaceutical companies in relation to vaccine trials”.
“It is important to clarify that the minister or his department will not be conducting the actual investigation. This will be undertaken by the independent statutory commission of investigation which will be tasked with reporting to the minister in accordance with its terms of reference,” said a statement.
The interdepartmental report on mother and baby homes published earlier this year is believed to be influ-encing the drafting of the terms of reference for the upcoming inquiry.
However, that report only acknowledges three trials having been carried out here in the 1960s and 1970s. This is despite a fourth being admitted by GSK in 2011.
The report also says 123 children in institutional settings were used in the three trials when, in fact, 180 children were used.
Michael Dwyer of UCC’s School of History has hit out at the fact that the report only acknowledges trials on 123 children in the 1960s and 1970s, when his research confirms trials were conducted between 1930 and the 1970s on thousands of children in residential institutions.
Although The Lancet report of the fifth trial does not specify where the it took place, it does make reference to the reaction to the vaccines being monitored by “the adults looking after the children” and that follow-ups were done on all the children from day six to day 14 at 6pm — indicating that the children were in a group setting. There is no mention of parental consent. GSK has said it does not agree that the above references constitute evidence that the trial was carried out on children in care, but did not offer any information as to where or in what institution the trial may have occurred.
The pharma giant said said any trials it carried out in Ireland were done by independent healthcare professionals to the highest safety and ethical standards. It also confirmed it was “seeking to investigate the facts regarding these studies” and would co-operate with any government inquiry.