As the epidemic continues to spread around the world, the strain on Africa’s public health systems is becoming more apparent. The move comes as two doctors in France have said publicly that Africa lacks the resources to prevent infection and should be the best choice for human testing of the COVID 19 vaccine. The comments caused a stir, and the head of the world health organization (who) has condemned them.
Two French doctors were recently accused of racism for suggesting that a possible coronavirus vaccine be tested on africans first.
The comments were made by two French doctors on April 1 while discussing the COVID 19 trial to be launched in Europe and Australia on French television channel LCI.
Jean-paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at Cochin Hospital in Paris, said: “this could be provocative. Shouldn’t we be doing this in Africa? They don’t have masks, they don’t have medical care, they don’t have intensive care units, it’s kind of like studying AIDS on sex workers, because they are exposed to risk groups, they are susceptible to infection, and they have very little self-protection.”
Camille Locht, research director at the French national institutes of health (Inserm), agrees: “you’re right. By the way, we are considering doing a study in Africa using the same approach. This study will use the BCG vaccine against TB.”
It didn’t take long for opposition to emerge on social media.
Didier Drogba, the ivory coast professional footballer who played for Chelsea, wrote on Twitter: “Africa is not a test laboratory. I strongly condemn these insulting, false and most racist comments.”
Olivier Faure of the Socialist Party said the comments were hardly provocative. “This is not provocative, this is just racist,” he wrote on Twitter. “Africa is not Europe’s laboratory. Africans are not rats!”
The anti-racism group SOS Racisme has called on the French media regulator CSA to formally condemn the comments.
“Africans are not guinea pigs,” the group said in a statement, adding that it was “problematic” and “undesirable” compared with AIDS and prostitutes. The group said the CSA did not respond to its complaints.
“It is shameful that no regulator has come out and publicly condemned these statements,” Amar Thioune, a member of SOS Racisme, told Al Jazeera television.
Meanwhile, the Moroccan lawyers’ group Le Club des avocats au Maroc says it is suing jean-paul Mira for racial defamation.
Locht’s employer, Inserm, posted a statement on twitter with the hashtag # FakeNews, saying the comments were out of context.
“A distorted video from an LCI interview with one of our researchers about a possible BCG vaccine study in covid19 is now the subject of misinterpretation,” the statement said.
It added that Africa “should not be forgotten or excluded from this study because the pandemic is global”.
French doctor Mira later apologized in a statement issued by his employer. “I would like to apologise to those who have been hurt, shocked and insulted by the comments I made on LCI this week,” he said.
In an interview with the huffington post, milla further clarified that “Africa is likely to be more severely hurt because there will be fewer masks and fewer restrictions because of the social structure.”
He added: “it seems to me that an African country, in addition to France and Australia, can participate in this research. I had never heard of the study before I heard about it on the show.”
The incident also shocked the French embassy in South Africa, which stressed that the doctors’ comments were in no way representative of the French authorities.
“We are deeply shocked by these arguments, which of course do not represent the position of the French authorities,” the French embassy in South Africa said in a statement. The French government, under the framework of the G7, the G20 and the European Union, will increase its efforts to fight the epidemic with Africa.”
The statement also said vulnerable countries in Africa are particularly in need of support from health systems, humanitarian care and economic assistance. As the outbreak subsides in other countries, it becomes more necessary to prevent another outbreak.
Who director-general Tedros Adhanom said on Thursday that it was “shocking and humiliating” to hear such talk in the 21st century, after French scientists proposed using Africa as a testing ground for vaccines. Such racist comments will not help but undermine unity.
Africa cannot and will not be used as a testing ground for any vaccine, and the development of a vaccine or treatment should follow the same rules on a global scale, he said. This legacy of colonial thinking needs to stop, and who will not allow this to happen. He condemned the remarks in the strongest terms.
In response to the current outbreak of covid-19 in Africa, who said that with fewer covid-19 cases in some African countries, a window of opportunity, and improved virus detection capabilities, swift action can prevent the worst. Who is calling for support for African countries to take comprehensive action to protect vulnerable groups, including refugees and migrants.
Africa is currently the continent least affected by COVID 19, with nearly 7,500 cases and about 320 deaths, but a lack of testing has raised concerns that the number of undetected cases is low.
Experts warn that the poor health systems of many African countries could lead to disaster in the event of a serious outbreak of coronavirus.