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Call for vaccine trials investigation

Former residents of orphanages and mother and baby homes have called for an independent inquiry into vaccine trials carried out on children in the 1960s and 1970s.

The call came after it emerged that a number of people who were involved in the trials are to take legal action against the drugs company involved.

A Department of Health report, published in 2000, found that at least 211 children in orphanages and mother and baby homes took part in four-in-one vaccine trials in the 1960s and 1970s.

First reported in the Irish Independent yesterday, the trials were carried out in a number of institutions, including the mother and baby home at the Sacred Heart Convent in Bessborough, Co Cork.

A former resident of Bessborough - 50-year-old Mari Steed - said she was given the vaccine there when she was between nine and 18 months old, without her mother's consent.

Ms Steed, who now lives in the US, and three others are preparing to take legal action in the US courts against the drugs company, GlaxoSmithKline.

In 1993, the then Minister for Health, Brendan Howlin, said that his Department had carried out an investigation into the trials and found that children who received the vaccines had not suffered any ill effects.

In 2000, the Laffoy Commission on Child Abuse was asked by then Government to investigate the trials.

However, the Commission dropped its investigation after court action was taken by the doctors involved.

Former residents of State institutions have now called on the Government to publish all files relating to the trials and to establish an independent inquiry.

Fine Gael's Denis Naughton has supported these calls, saying the reports highlight one of the dark stories behind the vaccine scandal of the 1960s and 1970s.

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