Anthrax experiments on IDF soldiers were unjustified
Anthrax vaccine experiments conducted on Israel Defense Force soldiers in the early 1990s were unjustifiable, states a report, compiled by a panel estblished by the Israel Medical Association (IMA), and authorized for publication on Wednesday.
The experiment, nicknamed "Omer 2," was held during the first part of the 1990s and included 716 IDF soldiers picked out of a pool of 4,000.
Following a three-month legal battle in Israel's High Court of Justice, the report was finally approved for publication Wednesday.
The report insinuates that it was improper motivation that prompted the launch of the experiments, but it does not specify what these motivations were, saying that the panel "could not make out the true inspiration behind them."
The report reveals that even while the experiment was taking place Israel already had a stock of vaccines, a fact which further raised the concern that the experiment wasn't necessary that it was carried out as a result of external pressure.
It was the committee members impression, even though it was not expressed in the final report, that the person who was the driving force behind the experiment was Dr. Avigdor Shafferman, the director of the Nes Tziona Biological Institute and an anthrax specialist.
The report sees Dr. Shafferman's refusal to appear before it as the reason for its inability to definitively answer those questions.
The committee's report also severely criticizes the "shroud of secrecy" which the experiments' directors implemented and asks whether "that secrecy was geared at hiding the tests from the Israeli public."
So, the committee states, this "issue is of utmost importance since it raises questions as to the true motives behind the decision to keep the tests secret, including the fact that it was administered to soldiers, which may have not been necessary."
The panel's suspicions were further raised as a result of the fact that while the experiments were conducted on soldiers, their effectiveness or potential hazards were not tested on those sections of the population for which the vaccine was intended. "The selection of soldiers as testing subjects hindered the experiments' declared purpose ? to examine the safety and efficacy of the vaccine in case of wide dissemination to a civilian population," the report said.
The committee also found that the Medical Corps and the IDF did not follow the guidelines of the Helsinki Accords, which has been regulating the procedures of experiments on humans since 1975. According to the report, enlisting soldiers under direct military authority was improper and ran against the principles of the Helsinki Accords.
Israel and the IDF accepted the principles of the Helsinki Accords, declaring many times that they meet their standards. In reality, however, the report states that "the military Helsinki committee failed to fulfill its duties in 'Omer 2' in every one of the points examined by the report."
"No scientific justification was found for the experiment, scientific background was lacking, the experiment's design and execution did not suit its goals, and no result would have justified those goals. Also, conventional guidelines were not followed, risks and possible side effects were not thoroughly investigated, and a follow-up mechanism to keep track of participating soldiers was not set up."
By stating so, the committee in fact reaffirms the claims made by several dozen soldiers, first made public on the Israeli channel two program Uvda (Fact). The soldiers, who claim that the experiment has brought upon life-threatening side effects, are now suing the IDF, with the assistance of attorneys Boaz Ben Tzur and Moshe Mazor, in a bid to obtain documents pertinent to the tests.
Israeli Physicians for Human Rights have also filed a lawsuit through attorney Michael Sfard.
As for the claims made by soldiers who testified in the committee, the report states that "the experiment's results have yet to be summarized. However preliminary results show a side effect rate of a few dozen percent, most of which are considered both inconsequential and transient."
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