Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Vaccine injuries and the Gulf War whitewash


READING the distressing accounts of Covid vaccine injury published on this site, for example here and here, I have had a ‘deja vu’ feeling.

It has taken me back to the mid-1990s when a man called Toby moved into a rented property in our village. He was a solitary fellow, brushing off overtures of friendship, until one cold winter night when he locked himself out of his house and was forced to ask for our help. It transpired that Toby was a veteran of the 1990-91 Gulf War and had been invalided out of the Army.  Much to his embarrassment, he broke down in tears as he explained that his health was ruined and his marriage had ended because, by his reckoning, he had become impossible to live with.

As we got to know him better I saw a man who, constantly exhausted and suffering extreme muscle pains was, some days, unable to do much more than wash and dress, and even that was a struggle. But his GP and Army medics all concluded that there was nothing physically wrong and that his symptoms were due to stress. As he argued, how could a young man previously in peak physical condition, who ran marathons, become unable to get out of bed?

Remembering Toby after all these years prompted me to do some reading on Gulf War illness which then was barely recognised and even less understood. Early research failed to account for its prevalence, duration, or health impact. While more latterly agreement has been reached in America that the syndrome was caused by chemical exposures from various sources (though which has never been decided), and that ‘stress’ was not at all an adequate explanation, this is not so in the UK. 

Toby himself was convinced that the multiple toxins, including the vaccines (an outrageous claim at that time), that he had been exposed to during the Gulf War were the cause of his problems. The response, he told us, was to ask why other veterans were apparently healthy? With no social media to share experiences, he was on his own, and told his symptoms were imaginary. His anger and despair escalated and led him to threaten to kill himself which, in turn, cruelly fuelled the view that he was physically well but mentally unstable. It was very challenging to support him and he turned his back on those who were trying to help him, including us.

The 1990-91 Persian Gulf War is labelled as the most toxic in history. Troops were exposed to a cocktail of pyridostigmine bromide (an anti-nerve agent), organophosphates and other pesticides, nerve agents, depleted uranium, environmental hazards, stress and smoke from burning oil wells. They were also intensively vaccinated. As well as the ‘traditional’ rota of yellow fever, typhoid and so on, many service personnel received other jabs aimed at protecting them from being injured by a variety of biological weaponry including anthrax.

A Vaccines Interaction Research Programme, commissioned by the Ministry of Defence and published in 2006, conveniently concluded that ‘the overwhelming evidence from the programme’ was that the combination of vaccines and nerve agent pre-treatment tablets given to UK Forces would not have had adverse health effects. This is the extraordinary position still maintained today in the MoD guidance on Gulf veterans’ illnesses

A 2001 Guardian report (published in the days when it was a trusted source) on one specific and illegal vaccine link said: ‘The illness known as Gulf War syndrome looks likely to have been caused by an illegal vaccine ‘booster’ given by the Ministry of Defence to protect soldiers against biological weapons, according to the results of a new series of tests.’ 

The illegal substance was identified by the Guardian as squalene, an adjuvant used in the anthrax vaccine to enhance effectiveness. The MoD denied this claim and stated that to the best of their knowledge squalene had never been given to British Forces. The denial was repeated in 2013. Yet the MoD refused to disclose to the Guardian what was in the vaccines. Today squalene is considered safe and is used extensively in flu vaccines.   

The troops were also given atropine as a preventive against nerve agents or a nerve agent antidote. 

It is hard to gauge the impact of the intensive vaccination programme soldiers were subjected to, as well as the environmental chemicals and toxin, as vaccinations were omitted from medical records.

Thirty years on, veterans like Toby haven’t received any meaningful justice though the Royal British Legion (RBL) continues to campaign for better support and recognition for the 33,000 who could be living with Gulf War illnesses. The RBL was part of the Gulf War Group who produced a report in 2007, Gulf War: a legacy of suspicion, which consolidated the evidence and debate around Gulf War illness. The report may be 15 years old but much of it is every bit as relevant today as it was then, and makes for shocking reading. 

The investigators fall into two camps, it says. ‘One camp insists that the conditions are caused by a yet-to-be-discovered medical problem, rejecting out of hand the possibility of a psychologic origin. The other camp insists the conditions are fundamentally psychogenic, rejecting the possibility of an undiscovered medical condition. The evidence shows, however, that the conditions exist, the suffering is real, and the causes are unknown.’

Were the soldiers properly briefed about the vaccines and their possible side-effects? No, they weren’t, according to the report. Many veterans thought informed consent policies had been breached. 

It would not have been for the first time – an earlier parallel was the use of the anti-malaria drug Lariam (mefloquine) which the military were made to take in Sierra Leone, as the Guardian reported in 2000. According to military sources there was no information provided, no advice given and no alternative (such as chloroquine) offered. There is no doubt that it led to serious adverse psychiatric side effects and severe mental illness.

I feel I have discovered a story dominated by numerous parallels with Covid-19 vaccines and those who have been injured by them. The administration of the Covid vaccines repeats the same problems of lack of information and lack of advice. The Government response to the injuries repeats the attempt to evade responsibility and to downplay the damage. It seems as though nothing has been learnt from the earlier disasters.

In common with the behaviour of the MHRA over the Covid jabs, nearly all official reports on the Gulf War syndrome both from the UK and USA have bent over backwards to exonerate the multiple vaccines to which soldiers were exposed, in keeping with their almost religious status as icons of modern medical science. In yet another parallel, there is still no meaningful validation or compensation for sufferers.

Toby moved away and we lost touch. As I reflect nearly 30 years later on his awful situation, I’ve been prompted to wonder if he’s been able to keep himself alive?

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Valerie Nelson
Valerie Nelson
Valerie Nelson is an independent mental health social worker.

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