BBC's Man in Greece became psychotic and believed he was Jesus after yellow fever jab
By Charlotte Eagar
Last updated at 12:04 PM on 4th December 2011
The terrified wife of veteran reporter Malcolm Brabant is now campaigning for a pharmaceutical giant to reveal the results of its investigation into the case
He is one of the BBC’s most respected reporters and the broadcaster’s Athens correspondent.
So viewers were perplexed when there was no sign of Malcolm Brabant during the riots provoked by the Greek economic crisis.
Well respected: Malcolm Brabant was the BBC's Athens correspondent - but was unable to report on rioting in the Greek capital due to his illness
The Mail on Sunday can now reveal that his absence from the screen earlier this year was due to an extreme illness after receiving a yellow fever vaccination.
Within hours of receiving the injection Mr Brabant’s temperature had spiked
and his condition deteriorated rapidly.
He became psychotic, sobbed and saluted at television pictures of military uniforms during the Royal Wedding and believed he was Jesus. He and his family now believe that the Stamaril inoculation he received was contaminated.
Mr Brabant, 55, an award-winning veteran of the siege of Sarajevo, is currently in hospital in Copenhagen, the home town of his wife, best-selling Danish writer Trine Villemann.
Petition: Mr Brabant's wife, Trine Villemann is now trying to obtain the findings of an investigation
He had the inoculation in April at the East Attica Vaccination Centre in Athens in preparation for a working trip to the Ivory Coast in West Africa. Within hours of the injection, his temperature rose to 104F.
Ms Villemann said: ‘Within two or three hours, he was shaking and shivering.
The whole bed was rocking backwards and forward. It was awful.’
He developed insomnia and grew irritable and anxious. After seven days, he
was admitted to a private hospital in Athens, where he began to suffer
‘He became psychotic,’ said his wife. ‘It began when doctors couldn’t knock the fever down. He slid into a place where he didn’t connect with reality. We were watching the Royal Wedding in hospital on April 29 and he started sobbing and saluting whenever he saw a military uniform.’
The next evening, Ms Villemann received a call from her husband, who was
crying and convinced he was Jesus.
‘I was absolutely terrified,’ she said. ‘I was trying to keep him on the phone while texting our translator to call the ward and have someone go into his room straight away.’
All this was witnessed by the couple’s 12-year-old son, Lukas.
‘He knew now that Daddy was seriously ill,’ she said. ‘My husband never had any mental illness before this. There is no history of mental illness in his family. I have checked.’
Mr Brabant has had two further psychotic episodes since April. He recovered and returned to work, but had a relapse in July and was flown to a psychiatric hospital in Britain.
The BBC paid his medical bills for his treatment in Athens, but he has been able to record only occasional reports over the past few months.
He and his family relocated to Copenhagen in the autumn when a new BBC correspondent, Mark Lowen, was dispatched to report from Athens.
Mr Brabant was taken to hospital again on November 8. In the past two months he has also had several blood clots on his lungs.
Bad reaction: The Stamaril vaccine that Mr Brabant took
Last week, Ms Villemann started an internet petition in an attempt to draw attention to her husband’s plight and persuade Sanofi Pasteur, the French pharmaceutical giant that makes Stamaril, to share the details of its internal investigation into the case. Ms Villemann, who met her husband during the siege of Sarajevo when she was a TV producer, said: ‘They ignored me for months until I started this internet campaign and petition. They just said the vaccine was fine.’
The case raises disturbing questions for the tens of thousands who have the yellow fever jab every year. It is a visa requirement for many countries, including most of Africa.
Ms Villemann first wrote to Sanofi Pasteur in May. On May 19, she received an email assuring her that the batch of vaccine had ‘successfully passed all the technical quality controls prior to its release in Greece’. The company asked Ms Villemann for her husband’s medical details and she gave it permission to contact his Greek doctors.
The company issued a statement last month saying: ‘Carefully investigating all the medical information that was disclosed to us up to July 2011, we have been unable to establish evidence for a causal relationship between the administration of the yellow fever vaccine Stamaril and the reported medical conditions.’
But Mr Brabant’s Athenian doctor left his family in no doubt that he thought his condition was a result of the vaccine. Ms Villemann said: ‘What has Sanofi Pasteur actually investigated? And why won’t they share it with us? Was it stored properly? Was it administered properly? Malcolm cannot remember the vaccine being taken from a fridge.’
As a result of her petition, Sanofi Pasteur has asked for the latest medical
records for Mr Brabant.
‘We are sympathetic to the situation but in order to make that investigation we need consent to approach Mr Brabant’s physicians,’ said Paul Hardiman, UK communications director, who was unaware that the company had already seen Mr Brabant’s records up to July. Sanofi Pasteur says more than 300million doses of Stamaril have been distributed over the past 25 years.
Ms Villemann said: ‘All I want is my happy, healthy husband back.’
A BBC spokesman said: ‘We wish Malcolm a speedy recovery.’