Africa will not be testing ground for coronavirus vaccine: WHO chief

GENEVA: The World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned as “racist” the comments by two French doctors who suggested a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.
The doctors’ remarks during a TV debate sparked outrage as they were accused of treating Africans like “human guinea pigs” forcing one of them to issue an apology.
“Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said WHO Director-General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, when asked during a coronavirus briefing about the doctor’s suggestion, calling it a hangover from the “colonial mentality”.
“It was a disgrace, appalling, to hear during the 21st Century, to hear from scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen,” he said.
As the number of confirmed cases in Africa continues to rise, some governments are imposing stricter measures to try to slow the spread of the virus. Kenya has banned all travel in and out of the capital, Nairobi, and three other large towns for three weeks.
During a debate on French TV, Camille Locht, head of research at Inserm health research group, was talking about a vaccine trial in Europe and Australia.
Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, then said: “If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation? A bit like it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids.”
Locht nodded in agreement at this suggestion and said: “You are right. We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa.”
Dr Mira had earlier questioned whether the study would work as planned on healthcare workers in Australia and Europe because they had access to personal protective equipment (PPE) while working.
The doctors’ comments have also fuelled existing fears in Africa that African people will be used as guinea pigs for a new coronavirus vaccine. Coronavirus centres have been targeted in many African countries over the comments.
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