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Three trials across 13 years tested drugs on young boys and girls

Irish Independent, Friday August 20 2010

Trial one (December 1960 and November 1961):

  • Involved 58 children in five children's homes.
  • Fourteen of these children were from the St Patrick's Mother and Baby Home in Dublin; 25 from the Sacred Heart Mother and Baby Home, Bessborough, in Cork; and six children from St Peter's Mother and Baby Home, Castlepollard, Co Westmeath.
  • Four of the children came from Clare's Baby Home, Co Meath, and nine children from the Good Shepherd Mother and Baby Home, Dunboyne, Co Meath.
  • The trial attempted to discover what would happen if four vaccines -- diphtheria, pertussis (also known as whooping cough), tetanus and polio -- were combined in one four-in-one shot.
  • At the time, the standard approach was to administer one combined injection carrying diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus and polio -- and then separately a polio vaccine.

Trial two (1970):

  • Involved 35 children who were administered the intra-nasal rubella vaccine.
  • During the trial, 69 children in St Anne's Industrial School Booterstown had blood taken. Twelve were then given the intranasal rubella vaccine.
  • A further 23 children living at home in the Killucan area of Westmeath were also administered the Wistar RA 27/3 rubella vaccine.
  • The purpose of the trial was to find out if a German measles vaccine, administered intranasally, could spread to susceptible contacts.
  • If it did, serious consequences could ensue, particularly for pregnant women. This is why children were administered the intra-nasal rubella vaccine.
  • The trial was the subject of an article published in the 'Cambridge Journal of Hygiene' in 1971 entitled, 'Trials of Intranasally administered Rubella Vaccine'.
  • Both trial one and trial two were carried out by Dr Irene Hillery and Professor Patrick Meenan, from the department of Medical Microbiology in University College Dublin, and other doctors.

Trial three (1973):

  • This trial involved 53 children living in five institutional settings.
  • The homes were: St Patrick's Home, Madonna House, Cottage Home, Bird's Nest and Boheennaburna.
  • A further 65 children who were living at home in Dublin also participated in the trial.
  • The purpose of the trial was to compare commercially available batches of the three-in-one vaccine, Trivax and Trivax AD, with that of a modified vaccine prepared for the trial.
  • The modified vaccine was of equivalent efficacy, but the pertussis (also known as whooping cough) component was not as potent.
  • The results of the trial were never published.
  • The 2002 Department of Health report noted that in July 1997, Glaxo Wellcome, the successor of The Wellcome Foundation, said the catalyst for the trial was a request from the Eastern Health Board in mid-1972.
  • But the report noted that the trial appeared to have been under way earlier in 1973. The chronology of events surrounding the trial was never uncovered.

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“In all of us there is a hunger, marrow-deep, to know our heritage, to know who we are and where we have come from. Without this enriching knowledge, there is a hollow yearning . . . and the most disquieting loneliness." 

Alex Haley, Author of Roots 





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