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British Legion challenges MoD on Gulf war jabs

David Hencke, Westminster correspondent
The Guardian

The Royal British Legion and the Ministry of Defence are heading for a legal showdown over the multiple vaccination of 52,000 soldiers in the first Gulf war, after the disclosure in the Guardian this week that when they were given anthrax vaccinations the official safety guidelines were not observed.

Patrick Allen of the law firm Hodge, Jones and Allen, which is taking up compensation claims for members of the armed forces who suffered Gulf war illnesses, said the disclosure was "very significant".

The lawyers are demanding assurances that all the vaccinations - some soldiers received as many as 28 jabs - followed safety guidelines. The ministry, which could be faced with huge claims for compensation, has so far declined to reply.

Yesterday Colonel Terry English, the legion's director of welfare, said: "We have been appalled by the attitude of the Ministry of Defence.

"They have refused to answer questions from our parliamentary adviser, Lord Morris, for over a year about whether they had followed safety guidelines for anthrax and other vaccines."

The former health minister Lord Hunt said earlier this year that anthrax vaccine should be used alone, contrary to the medical records held by a former officer, Captain Beverley Green.

The Ministry of Defence said that it hoped to reply to Lord Morris "very shortly".