The taintedblood Timeline - what really happened...
Type: Lancet Report
"Doubts have been raised now about the project, triggered by difficulties with the inactivation process necessary to render any such vaccine non-infective from free virus and by recent concern over the possibility of transmission of AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) via the human plasma from which the vaccine is derived."
We can date the source document for this information, since on page 4, under the paragraph with the heading: "Present Situation" we learn that the circular was written sometime in June 1982, and that Dr. Harris, then DCMO, was considering the importation of a US vaccine.
Note: The DHSS seemed more concerned with commercial interests - like whether to continue with the financial contribution they had been making towards the development of a plasma-derived Hepatitis B vaccine which they could exploit commercially - than the safety of products made from source-plasma obtained in questionable circumstances:
"...This is due to concern which has arisen about the possible transmission of AIDS in plasma-derived products, in circumstances where the blood donors likely to be the most productive sources of hepatitis B surface antigen happen often to be individuals at risk of developing AIDS."It would not have been difficult for the DHSS to have foreseen, from this detailed information, that products manufactured from U.S. or other suspect source-plasma were going to be a huge threat to the lives of haemophiliacs.
Type: DHSS Circular - commercial in confidence. June 1982. Dr Ed L. Harris, Deputy Chief Medical Officer (DCMO, DH, 1977-89).
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"....plasma taken from homosexual drug-takers contains a sort of virus which goes undetected when the plasma is tested because it is suppressed by the drugs. However, when used for Factor VIII, it becomes active again."
The DHSS letter states that information has been received from the American Bureau of Biologics (via NIBSC) indicating there may be considerable publicity in the next couple of weeks concerning the safety of American Factor VIII.
From the following comment, it appears the DHSS are complacent at this stage:
"In any case with our voluntary unpaid donor system we do not have the same problems as in the States where drug addicts are tempted to give blood simply for the money. However, about half of the Factor VIII bought from commercial companies is imported from the USA."
Note: In terms of knowledge in the United Kingdom, this is one of the earlier dates (16 July 1982) which demonstrates that the DHSS had advance "private" knowledge of the safety risks from US commercial factor VIII almost 10 months earlier than we previously thought. This DHSS letter went out 1 year prior to the infamous July 1983 CSM meeting (reported in the Guardian by Sarah Hall on Friday May 25, 2007).This early knowledge by officials also pre-dates (by 2 months) our earliest known point of awareness of AIDS by the UKHCDO (which was in September 1982). We know that Dr Craske was tasked with looking into reports of the syndrome in 3 haemophiliacs from the United States.
Mr. Dobson asked the Secretary of State for Social Services when his Department first became aware that acquired immune deficiency syndrome could be transmitted through blood and blood products.
Mr. Newton [pursuant to his reply, 17 November 1986, c. 78]: We became aware in 1982 of reports from the United States of America that haemophiliacs were contracting AIDS. Although the mechanics of infection was not known it was presumed that it had been transmitted through the use of blood products such as Factor VIII. Evidence that the AIDS infection could also be transmitted by blood transfusion emerged from the United States of America in 1983.
Note: According to Hansard, Dr Gerard Vaughan, then Minister for Health, had knowledge, sometime in 1981, possibly from as early as May, of the threat of contaminated blood supplies which were being imported from the United States. This is one of the earliest warnings that we are aware of (so far) and we are astonished to learn of how early this awareness was, and that so little was done. Clearly, we are still not being told everything. (see related entries link below.)
We also know that in July 1982, the DHSS had early knowledge in of "a sort of virus" found within plasma taken from "homosexual drug-takers" which went undetected when the plasma was tested but when it was used for Factor VIII, it became active again.
Type: House of Commons Hansard
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