Vaccine cocktail and stress ‘doomed Gulf War heroes’

By James Chapman (Daily Mail May 19, 2000)

VETERANS renewed calls for a full public inquiry into Gulf War Syndrome yesterday after new research reinforced the theory that the illness was caused by vaccines given to troops during the 1991 conflict.

Experts concluded that soldiers who were given multiple vaccines as they went into action were up to five times more likely to develop symptoms than those who had the jabs before deployment.

The findings raise the possibility that the stress of the battlefield may have combined with the ‘cocktail’ of vaccines to cause the illnesses.

Veterans, who claim they were used as guinea pigs to try untested medications, say 500 have died and as many as 5,000 may be suffering from Gulf War Syndrome, the existence of which has been questioned and even ridiculed in the past. The most comprehensive study ever carried out, published in today’s British Medical Journal, has established a link to common vaccines against diseases such as cholera, tetanus and typhoid, and jabs to protect against chemical and biological weapons such as anthrax.

But it found that while vaccinations given to troops before deployment had no association with ill health after the war soldiers who were immunised during deployment were up to five times more likely to suffer from a range of problems.

These included so-called ‘multisymptom’ illness, chronic fatigue and psychological distress — all commonly associated with Gulf War Illness. Dr Matthew Hotopf, senior lecturer at the Gulf War Research Unit at King’s College, London, said the medical records of more than 900 veterans of the conflict against Iraq suggested ‘a powerful association’ between vaccinations and illnesses. He stressed there was no suggestion that vaccines routinely administered to civilians could have any similar harmful effects.

‘There doesn’t seem to be a specific effect of an individual vaccine,’ he said at a briefing in London yesterday.

‘There is no smoking gun. But what our results do suggest is that people who had multiple vaccines seem to have worse health outcomes.’ Veterans who received six or more vaccines had the most health problems. The experts believe their illnesses might have been caused by some unknown biological mechanism triggered by the vaccines and the physical and psychological stress of being in a conflict situation. ‘There is a theory we are working on that it causes a systematic shift in the immune system,’ said Dr Hotopf. He recommended that troops be given regular vaccinations as long as possible before they were deployed. He added that the vaccines link was just one piece in the ‘complex jigsaw’ represented by Gulf War Syndrome. Flight Lieutenant John Nichol, who was shot down during the war and now represents the Gulf War veterans within the Royal British Legion, said:

‘These results confirm what veterans have been saying for a number of years — that there is a link between these vaccines and ill health. We now need a public inquiry. That may go some way to allaying the concerns of the veterans and the concerns of serving military personnel who have seen their colleagues die and become ill’

A spokesman for the Ministry of Defence welcomed the research, and added that the Ministry was already undertaking research of its own into health effects of possible interaction between the vaccines.


TEN years ago Sean Rusling was a super-fit sergeant in the Parachute Regiment. But since his return from the Gulf War, his health has been shattered by a mystery illness He now has to take medication to help him go to the lavatory and to alleviate pain from the muscular condition fibromyalgia. He was given a medical discharge from the army in 1996. ‘I had more than 24 vaccines in three weeks,’ said Mr Rusling, 41, from. Hull. ‘Iwas listed "forward everywhere" ,which meant I could be, sent anywhere in the world at short notice. Now, I can barely get around.’