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UK babies given toxic vaccines, admits Glaxo

Antony Barnett and Tracy McVeigh
Sunday June 30, 2002
The Observer

British drug giant GlaxoSmithKline has finally admitted that
thousands of babies in this country were inoculated with a batch
of toxic whooping cough vaccines in the 1970s.
Some experts believe that these Trivax vaccines - which had not
passed critical company safety tests - may have caused permanent
brain damage and even fatalities in young children.

In 1992, the family of an Irish boy, Kenneth Best, who suffered
brain damage from one of these toxic vaccines, was awarded £2.7
million in compensation by the Irish Supreme Court.

Despite a long and fierce battle with the drug giant, the boy's
family finally won this historic case after his mother Margaret
made a startling find when sifting through tens of thousands of
company documents.

She discovered that the Trivax vaccine used on her son, from a
batch numbered 3,741, had been released by the company despite it
having failed to pass a critical safety test. Documents revealed
that the 60,000 individual doses within this batch were known to
be 14 times more potent than normal.

At the time the Irish judge accused GlaxoSmithKline - then known
as Glaxo Wellcome - of negligence and attacked the company's poor
quality control at its Kent laboratory. Immunology experts
condemned Glaxo in court for what one US scientist described as an
'extraordinary event'.

Last year an investigation by The Observer found evidence to
suggest that vaccines from this faulty batch, which may have
wrecked Kenneth Best's life, had also been used in Britain.

Liberal Democrat MP Norman Baker raised questions in the House of
Commons, asking whether vaccines from this batch had been given to
British babies. Then Health Minister Yvette Cooper wrote to the
company asking for information.

Now, almost a year later, GlaxoSmithKline has replied that it is
'highly probable' the toxic batches had been used in Britain.

The Department of Health is under pressure to make efforts to
trace the children who received the suspect vaccines.

Last week in the House of Commons, Health Minister Hazel Blears
said: 'Unfortunately they no longer have details of the
quantitites of vaccine or the places where the vaccine was

'Since vaccines were not centrally purchased and distributed at
that time there are no central records either. Information on
individuals who received these vaccines will only exist if the
general practioner at the time of the immunisation recorded the
batch number and the patient's notes are still available.'

Baker will now write to the Minister to demand that she asks
health authorities to check the records to find out who received
the vaccine. It is believed that at least one boy from Wales died
after receiving a jab from toxic batch 3,741, although the parents
have never been informed.

A spokesman for GlaxoSmithKline told The Observer : 'We do not
accept that these batches were harmful.'



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