August 20, 2010
The Government must bring closure to victims of the vaccine scandals of the 1960s and 1970s, Fine Gael Deputy Denis Naughten said today.
The call came after it emerged that a woman adopted from Ireland in 1961, who was involved in a vaccine trial as a baby without the permission of her mother, is to take legal action against the drugs company involved.
Mari Steed (50), who now lives in the US, is to take action along with three others against Glaxosmithkline, known as “The Wellcome Foundation” at the time the trials were conducted.
Ms Steed was administered the experimental vaccine while at the Sacred Heart Convent, Bessborough, Co Cork between December 1960 and October 1961 when she was between nine and 18 months old. She is also to bring legal action against the Sacred Heart Order in the Irish courts, according to the Irish Independent.
Her mother has said she never gave permission for her child to be involved in the vaccine trial.
A report published by the Department of Health in 2000 showed that at least 211 children in homes and orphanages were given test vaccines during three separate drug trials. It was referred to the Laffoy Commission on Child Abuse by the Government, but the commission’s investigation into the trials was stopped following court action taken by the medical practitioners involved.
It is understood that none of the children who were given the experimental vaccine were damaged by it.
Mr Naughten said Ms Steed’s experience highlighted “one of the dark stories” behind the vaccine scandals of the 1960s and 1970s.
“The Government must make all of the information it has on the vaccine trails and the background to the trials available,” he said.
It must also apologise to those who were “treated as guinea pigs”, he said.
Mr Naughten also called on the Government to arrange compensation for children who were damaged by the State vaccine programme administered in the 1960s and 1970s.
Some infants experienced severe adverse reactions to the 3-in-1 DPT state vaccination programme at that time, including brain damage.
Mr Naughten said Minister for Health Mary Harney must belatedly act on the report Vaccine Damage Steering Group, which proposed a mechanism to support those who were profoundly brain damaged by the State vaccination programme.
“These victims in their 30s and early 40s have been left without many of the supports they require, and their elderly parents have been forced to fight for even the most basic services,” he said.
“It is about time we take moral responsibility and acknowledge that what went on in the past was wrong. We now need to take care of those who were damaged by State-promoted vaccination programmes rather than trying to hide the truth away in a dark corner.”