Polio vaccine tested at orphanages
- Category: Lab-Rat Foster Kids
- Created: Sunday, 24 October 2004 03:53
- Written by - The Age
Commonwealth Serum Laboratory records show the trials were conducted on babies as young as three months in five institutions between December 1959 and early 1961.
Quadruple antigen, containing Salk polio vaccine, was not publicly released until November 1960.
The Age revealed on Saturday that millions of doses of Salk vaccine produced by the then government-owned CSL between 1956-62 were contaminated with a monkey virus called SV40. Researchers have found traces of the virus in a range of human cancer cells, including mesothelioma lung disease.
It is not clear from the CSL records whether polio vaccine used to produce quadruple antigen used in the tests came from contaminated batches.
Federal Health Minister Tony Abbott has ordered a departmental inquiry into CSL's decision to release contaminated vaccines.
The National Health and Medical Research Council said it would work with federal health authorities to assess the need for more research into possible links between SV40 and cancer.
Health authorities have stressed there was no proven link between SV40 and cancer and have also reassured the public that polio vaccines still routinely given to all babies were safe and free from the virus and other known contaminants.
But a national support group for victims of contaminated medical products yesterday called for a royal commission into CSL.
"The track record of CSL demonstrates the need for a royal commission into all their operations," said Independent Blood Council president Charles MacKenzie.
CSL research records in the National Archives show that 56 babies under the age of 12 months were used in the Victorian vaccine trials.
One baby died of meningitis in August 1960, less than three months after completing a course of three quadruple antigen injections.
The records list the names of the institutions, the names and ages of the babies, the doses given and the results of blood tests done before and after the vaccinations to measure polio antibodies.
The institutions used in the trials were St Joseph's Home in Broadmeadows, Berry Street Foundling Home, Bethany Babies Home in Geelong, Methodist Babies Home and the Children's Welfare Department at Turana, run by the Victorian government.
There is no indication of who gave formal consent for the babies to be used in the trials, which were carried out by CSL's virus research department.
Further development and use of the quadruple antigen, which also provided vaccination against whooping cough, diptheria and tetanus, appeared to have been abandoned during 1962-63. Salk vaccine was replaced with Sabin oral polio vaccine by 1965.
The Age has revealed that in 1997 Victorian children's homes and orphanages had been used by a number of medical and research organisations, including CSL, for trials of a range of experimental vaccines.
The reports led to inquiries by the state and federal health departments, which concluded there was no evidence of any other similar medical trials. Neither report referred to the quadruple antigen trials.
The State Government report, a copy of which has been obtained under freedom of information by Melbourne researcher Brenda Coughlan, found no record of the Department of Human Services providing formal consent for state wards to be used in trials.
The Age's revelations were examined by the Senate's inquiry into mistreatment of state wards, which said in its report in August that it was unclear who was legally responsible for allowing the children to be used. It concluded that any long-term health effects on children used in the experiments were unknown.
The experimental use of quadruple antigen was investigated by a commission of inquiry in 2003.
Rachel David, director of public affairs at CSL, said community attitudes at the time of the quadruple antigen trials in Melbourne were very different.
She said it would have been a logical decision to trial the new vaccinations in such institutions because "lots of kids died of communicable and vaccine preventable disease" in them.
Source : https://www.theage.com.au/national/polio-vaccine-tested-at-orphanages-20041025-gdyv38.html