By Rebecca Mowling, Evening Standard
27 May 2003 Four British soldiers who received jabs for the Iraq conflict are to sue the Ministry of Defence claiming they are suffering from a new form of Gulf War Syndrome.
The revelation comes as a veterans' support group predicted today that thousands of UK servicemen will come forward with mystery illnesses linked to "vaccine overload".
Tony Flint of the National Gulf Veterans and Families' Association, confirmed he now anticipates a fresh wave of health cases. "We are expecting at least 6,000 new cases as a result of the Iraq conflict - about 30 per cent of the 22,000 troops who had the anthrax vaccination."
The first four soldiers from the latest conflict who are set to sue - two reservists and two regulars - are blaming depression, breathing problems and eczema on injections they were given before being sent to the Middle East.
Professor Malcolm Hooper, chief scientific adviser to the veterans' association, said the MoD did not seem to have learned from "the mistakes of the 1991 conflict" in relation to multiple vaccinations. "These guys are clearly suffering from vaccine overload," he said.
The key concern centres on soldiers given anthrax vaccines on top of other more routine inoculations.
Professor Hooper added: "The problem was one which was there in 1991. Our studies have shown that these people have excessive symptoms - three to four-fold compared with people who have not been vaccinated in the same way."
Concern about the long-term side-effects led to almost half the
45,000 British servicemen and women in the recent conf lict refusing vaccinations against anthrax, fearing that they might be afflicted by the syndrome. However, all four men are understood to have been given the anthrax vaccination and had multiple jabs in one day before falling ill.
Royal Engineers reservist Stephen Cartwright was taken to hospital with a fever and blistered skin after being given a number of jabs, including the controversial anthrax vaccine. The 24-yearold spent four days in hospital and was so ill he did not make it to the Gulf.
The second reservist, Tony Barker, 45, was given five vaccinations - hepatitis, typhoid, polio, diphtheria and yellow fever on 17 February, days after he was called up. The father-of-one received an anthrax jab less than a week later. The Royal Logistics Corps driver fell ill in Kuwait after being given nerve agent pre-treatment and anti-malarial pills. He also had a second anthrax jab on 13 March.
Lawyer Mark McGhee, who is acting for the four men, said: "The symptoms that these four individuals are experiencing are identical to those of the individuals I represent in relation to the first Gulf war." The High Court is due to rule within weeks on whether Gulf War Syndrome can be recognised in law.
But the MoD has also accepted that some troops returning from the latest conflict may suffer long-term health problems as a result of the war and has begun a screening programme.