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Belgian vaccine tests on babies in S. Russia legal - hospital employer

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MOSCOW, April 2 (RIA Novosti) - Tests of Belgian vaccines on children in southern Russia were conducted in rigorous compliance with Russian international norms, the company controlling the hospital said Monday.

Three medical staff at a private clinic in Volgograd, controlled by the Russian Railways health department, are facing charges with illegally testing Belgian-made vaccines on children between one and two years of age with no regard for the children's lives and health.

"In this case, clinical research was conducted as a necessary stage in the procedure for state registration. The Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare supervised the research," the RR news release said.

The document says that a health watchdog, Federal Service for the Oversight of Public Health and Social Affairs, had sanctioned the trials in accordance with the Health Ministry's order.

The clinic in the city of Volgograd tested the Varilrix vaccine against chickenpox, and a measles, mumps and rubella vaccine, Priorix-Tetra, on a total of 112 children under a 2005 contract with the Belgian giant GlaxoSmithKline.

Prosecutors said the doctors, seeking material benefits, failed to inform the parents of the trials who raised questions when their children fell ill after receiving the vaccines. The vaccines work by causing the body to produce its own immunity against the disease.

"The parents believed these were routine vaccinations, they were not informed that new vaccines were being tested on their children," prosecutors said adding that the doctors received 1.5 million rubles ($57,670) and 700,000 rubles ($26,900) from GlaxoSmithKline.

The probe against the Volgograd clinic was launched following an incident where a baby-girl was diagnosed with neurological disorders after receiving one of the vaccines, which prosecutors said had been a result of the vaccination.

But the RR press service argues that an investigation launched by the Federal Service for the Oversight of Consumer Protection and Welfare in February had established that the child had not suffered complications as a result of the vaccination, and that the deterioration in health conditions occurred 52 days after the vaccination was given.

"The commission established that the complications cannot be considered as a result of the vaccination," the press release said.

The clinical trials were halted in February 2007, following a court ruling, which was appealed against by the hospital and GlaxoSmithKline. Both said the trials were legitimate and there were no convincing evidence supporting claims that the vaccines were harmful to health.

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