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British Army Doctor Links Gulf War Vaccines, Illness

  • Mike Wendling London Bureau Chief
  • 2004 14 Jan
British Army Doctor Links Gulf War Vaccines, Illness
London ( - A senior British army doctor has gone against official policy by attributing the illness of one Gulf War veteran to injections received before deployment, according to reports in the U.K. media this week.

The U.K. government has consistently denied that there is a unique "Gulf War Syndrome" caused by factors particular to the 1991 conflict and separate from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) suffered by veterans of other wars.

However, Lt. Col Graham Howe, who was asked by the country's War Pensions Agency to examine a soldier suffering from osteoporosis and acute depression, attributed the conditions to injections administered in preparation for deployment to the Gulf.

Howe made the determination in part because the soldier in question, Lance Corporal Alex Izett, received the shots but was never actually deployed to the region, reports said.

"It seems most likely certain that Mr. Izett did in fact receive classified 'secret' injections prior to his expected deployment, and that in turn these have most probably led to the development of autoimmune-induced osteoporosis," Howe wrote in a medical report.

Izett was immunized against anthrax, botulism, plague and other biological warfare agents thought to be stockpiled by Saddam Hussein's forces.

Last year, Izett won a case in front of a pensions board, which ruled that the soldier's osteoporosis was caused by the injections. The Ministry of Defense declined to appeal the decision.

Speaking by phone from his current home in Germany, Izett said campaigners were encouraged by the development.

"I believe we are making progress, but it's slow progress," he said. "We've won a few battles but the war isn't over."

Izett, who is originally from Glasgow, said he had written to the Scottish Parliament to ask for hearings on Gulf illnesses.

"I'm hoping that this will put pressure on (the national government in) Westminster and that the Houses of Parliament will take this up," he said.

In a separate case revealed this week, a civilian coroner ruled that the death of a British Army vet in 2001 was linked to his war service.

"These two cases are dynamite and proof Gulf War Syndrome exists," said Shaun Rusling, chairman of the National Gulf Veterans and Families Association.

"They are clear recognition that multiple vaccinations troops were given have led to serious ill health and death. The government should now stop covering this up," he said.

In a statement, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that there was no evidence that Gulf War Syndrome exists.

"The overwhelming consensus of the scientific and medical community is that there are too many different symptoms reported for this ill health to be characterised as a 'syndrome,'" the MoD said

The department said it has funded a $15.5 million research program to investigate the issue.

"Gulf veterans' illnesses remain a high priority and the government will continue to address Gulf veterans' concerns openly and honestly," the MoD said.

In addition to the vaccines administered to front-line troops, campaigners have suggested that depleted uranium weapons, oil well fires or unreported Iraqi chemical weapon attacks may have contributed to the illnesses suffered by Gulf vets.

Neither U.S. nor British authorities have acknowledged a distinct Gulf War Syndrome; however, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has identified a link between service in the Gulf and an increased risk of Lou Gehrig's disease.

An estimated 20,000 American servicemembers and 5,000 British personnel became ill after the first Gulf War. In 2002, a U.S. House subcommittee held special hearings on the issue in London.

The British government has resisted calls for public hearings into the veterans' illnesses, but a Labor Party lord who backs the campaigners has scheduled a debate on the matter in the upper house of Parliament later this month.

See previous story:
British Tribunal Rules Gulf War Drugs Caused Disease (May 5, 2003)

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