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Photo: Shaul Golan
Vaccine tested on troops (Illustration)
Photo: Shaul Golan
Israel admits to testing anthrax vaccine on troops
Cleared for publication: Defense Ministry admits to experimenting on 716 IDF soldiers during secret research project without disclosing full details; defense official: Israel now possesses anthrax vaccine that can protect entire population
Israel has admitted to developing a vaccine against anthrax, fearing it might be used as a bio-weapon by enemy nations against civilians, and tested it on IDF soldiers.

 

The story was cleared for publication Wednesday evening by the High Court of Justice. The research project, codenamed "Omer 2," was kept secret for many years.

 

"Once we face a substantial threat, we would be able to vaccinate all citizens, ranging from babies to the elderly, and protect them against the virus," a senior defense source told Ynet.

 

Chemical weapons drill in US (Archive photo: AP)

 

The Israeli research project, which included the participation of experts from Israel and abroad, got underway in the early 1990s. Over the years, American military and medical officials took part in the process and the first experiments were undertaken in the US. At the end of the research and development project, a decision was taken to produce the vaccine in Israel and look into its effect on civilians.

 

Israeli medical and defense officials said the research adhered to the highest standards.

 

'Project of trategic importance'

The defense establishment's anthrax research was presented to 4029 potential volunteers, 716 of whom eventually took part in the experiment, half of them career officers. However, there are disagreements as to the nature of the volunteer participation. Some of them claim that they received vague information about the nature of the experiment. Defense officials said the full details could not be revealed due to secrecy considerations.

 

However, participants were given basic information and details about possible side-effects.

Following the experiment, doctors monitored the volunteers for a period of four years. So far, 11 soldiers sought medical attention due to side-effects apparently sustained as result of the tests.

 

Meanwhile, defense officials have rejected a request by a group of volunteers who recently petitioned the High Court to establish a commission of inquiry into the matter. The defense establishment noted that the research project held strategic importance for national security.

 

"Thanks to it, Israel can provide a medical response to the entire population against a very grave threat," the defense establishment said. "We thank the volunteers and appreciate their willingness to participate in this important research project and their contribution to the security of all citizens of Israel."

 

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