Officials in protective suits handle anthrax [file].
(photo credit: REUTERS)
The Defense Ministry will pay out tens of thousands shekels in compensation to
every one of the 716 soldiers and officers who agreed to take part in a once
secret anthrax vaccine trial, following a compromise deal to settle lawsuits
filed by dozens of volunteers who suffered negative side effects after being
The vaccine trial, named Omer 2, took place between 1998 and
2006, and sought volunteers from elite IDF units. Following the trial, a number
of participants complained of side effects such as breathing problems and skin
Ninety one soldiers who sued the Defense Ministry will
receive NIS 36,000 each, while the remainder of the trial’s participants will
receive NIS 27,000 each, amounting to a compensation package of more than NIS 20
In a joint statement released by the Defense and Justice
ministries, the state denied wrongdoing, saying, “More than a decade ago, the
defense establishment concluded that Israeli civilians and soldiers faced a
tangible threat from anthrax attacks, possibly via missile attacks, and that
defense measures were essential against this unconventional threat. In line with
this assessment, the Defense Ministry began developing a vaccine in Israel which
was based on an American vaccine, in order to provide a solution to members of
the security forces and civilians.”
The statement added that military
medical researchers who developed the vaccine “did not expect any dangerous side
effects,” and that “the vaccine used in the research contains materials that
exist in many vaccines given to babies on a regular basis, such as for tetanus
The research “was carried out in the safest way” on
volunteers, the statement continued.
Defense figures said they took into
account the fact that those who sued were volunteers, and as a result, the
Defense Ministry decided to settle the issue through compensation, it
The Medical Research Administration, which operates under the IDF’s
Chief Medical Officer, will provide care for volunteers, while a financial fund
will be created to handle compensation payments.
During the trial period,
a quarter of participants were given an American version of the vaccine, while
75 percent were injected with the Israeli vaccine, which had not been previously
tested. Members of both groups went on to suffer side effects.
program had in the past been severely criticized by the Israel Medical
In 2009, the Defense Ministry, responding to lawsuits and
criticism, said, “Thanks to Omer 2, Israel has a medical reply for the general
public against a most severe threat.
We thank the volunteers and
appreciate their willingness to take part in this important trial, and their
contribution to the general security of residents of Israel.” It went on to say
that the Israeli vaccine is as safe as the anthrax vaccine developed by the
Those who sued raised questions over the way the vaccine trial was
conducted, and challenged the adequacy of the monitoring of volunteers and the
subsequent care provided to them.