Secret IDF Anthrax Vaccine Trial on Soldiers to Be Investigated

IMA Ethics Bureau will examine whether tests adhered to Helsinki Declaration requirements.

Yuval Azoulay
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Yuval Azoulay

The Israel Defense Forces will provide the ethics bureau of the Israeli Medical Association with all the details of secret experimental anthrax vaccine trials it carried out on over 800 soldiers since 1999.

A committee will be established to probe whether the trials adhered to World Medical Association ethical requirements relating to human clinical trials as set out in the Helsinki Declaration.

The IMA probe will comprise specialists in infectious diseases, and members of the Israeli delegation to the Helsinki committee which devised the international standards for clinical trials on humans. Chairman of the IMA Ethics Bureau, Professor Avinoam Reches, said on Sunday that the probe's findings will be made public.

The Israel Medical Corps requested that the IMA investigate the experiments after Channel 2 television's current affairs program, Uvda, revealed earlier this month that dozens of participants still suffered unexplained medical symptoms.

Following the expose, the Defense Ministry and former IDF chief medical officer issued statements saying the experiment had been carried out because Iraq was expected to use spores of the deadly anthrax bacteria to attack Israel.

Israel did not possess sufficient quantities of the vaccine to field such an attack, and was therefore compelled to produce the vaccine rather than importing it.

Years after the receiving the experimental Israeli vaccine, soldiers continued to suffer unexplained skin tumors, severe lung infections, serious migraine headaches, bronchitis and even epilepsy symptoms.

However, the IDF did not take responsibility for their ongoing treatment at civilian medical centers, and they were not allowed to discuss the experiment under any circumstances despite its likely connection to their continuing health problems.

One of the soldiers who took part in the experiment told Uvda "They said that one group would receive the American vaccine, and the other group would receive the experimental Israel vaccine."

"They specifically explained to us that the vaccine is not dangerous and that we were not being injected with the actual virus, not even the dead virus. Instead, they said they would inject us with the altered DNA of the virus. They said it was very advanced," added the soldier.

The Ethics Bureau investigation committee will hear testimonies from Israel Medical Corps staff responsible for carrying out the secret experiments, as well as from soldiers who received the vaccine.

Israeli non-profit group Physicians for Human Rights has requested the soldiers' testimonies as well, in order to pressure the authorities to create an independent probe commission into the medical practices of the IDF and Defense Ministry.

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