Two leading French doctors have sparked a storm of criticism after discussing on a television program the idea of testing a vaccine for coronavirus in Africa.
Former international and Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba joined lawyers and a French anti-racism organization in criticizing the comments made on Wednesday in a broadcast on the LCI channel.
Camille Locht, head of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) in Lille, was questioned about a shield for coronavirus using the well-known BCG vaccine for tuberculosis.
He was asked by Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris, whether Africa offered better conditions for testing the vaccine.
“If I could be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care, rather as was done with certain studies on AIDS, where things are tested on prostitutes because it’s known that they are highly exposed (to HIV)?” Mira asked. “What do you think?”
Locht replied: “You’re right, we are thinking in parallel by the way about a study in Africa with the same kind of approach, (but) it doesn’t prevent us from being able to think about a study in Europe and Australia at the same time.”
Scientists who carry out clinical trials try to find conditions in which large numbers of people are exposed to the disease, as this gives a better opportunity for testing a new drug.
Such trials are carried out under strict supervision, which requires volunteers to be briefed about any risks and to give their informed consent.
But the idea of having Africa as a setting for a coronavirus vaccine is controversial.
Africa is the world’s poorest continent and its citizens bear the least responsibility for spreading the virus, which originated in China and spread to the Middle East, Europe and the United States through jet travel.
At the same time, Africans are badly exposed to the microbe, both in terms of preparedness and health care.
Former international football star Drogba was among those who criticized the remarks about testing in Africa.
“It is inconceivable that we continue to accept this. Africa is not a laboratory. I strongly denounce these very serious, racist and contemptuous words,” the former Chelsea and Marseille striker wrote on his Facebook page and on Twitter.
“Help us save lives in Africa and stop the spread of the virus that is destabilizing the whole world instead of seeing us as guinea pigs. It is absurd.”
– Complaints and a lawsuit –
A French anti-racism NGO, SOS Racisme, issued a statement saying, “No, Africans aren’t guinea pigs” and described the comparison with AIDS and prostitutes as “problematic” and “unwelcome.”
The CSA, the ethics watchdog for radio and television in France, told AFP it had received a complaint.
Among those who voiced anger on social media was an association of lawyers in Morocco, which said it planned to file a lawsuit for “racial defamation.”
INSERM said that an “edited video was leading to erroneous interpretations (of the comments) on social media.”
It said on Twitter that trials would take place in several European countries and Australia, and “Africa should not be forgotten or excluded from research, as the pandemic is global.”
Mira closed down public access to his Twitter account after receiving what he said were threats and insults.
He told the Huffington Post that he was deeply upset by the accusations made against him, and apologized if his comments had not been “clear.”
“Clinical trials take place everywhere. Less so in Africa,” he said.
A trial conducted in a local setting could unlock knowledge that could lead to local benefits, he said.
He pointed to the study on sex workers and HIV, “which was done to protect prostitutes in South Africa.”
© 2020 AFP
Trump ridiculed for his late-night ‘OPEN THE SCHOOLS’ rant: ‘Eat your Big Mac and shut up’
President Donald Trump demanded local school boards reopen schools during a late night tweet sent after 11 p.m. on Monday.
"OPEN THE SCHOOLS!!!" Trump demanded, in all capital letters with three exclamation marks.
The president was harshly criticized for his tweet, here's some of what people were saying:
You can't even get your own son's school to open.
They have refused.
The school where your son Barron is being educated refuses to open because it's not safe.
Now sit there, eat your Big Mac, and shut up.
Florida Democrats ask their own candidate to withdraw his candidacy after cocaine arrest: report
Democrats in Florida are asking their own candidate to end his campaign for county commission after an arrest for DUI and cocaine.
"A Collier County commission candidate's arrest in East Naples this past weekend has prompted calls from his party to drop out of the race," the Naples Daily News reported Monday. "John Jenkins, 55, was booked into the Naples Jail Center Sunday morning and faces a felony charge of possession of cocaine, according to a Collier County Sheriff's Office arrest report. He was released later that day on $5,000 bond."
Harvard researchers want less accurate tests for COVID-19
The aphorism "perfect is the enemy of good enough" has been played out to tragic effect in the US's inadequate testing for the coronavirus, according to researchers calling for quick tests that cost only about a dollar each, and which may not be as accurate but can be carried out several times a week by the whole population.
Michael Mina, assistant professor of epidemiology at Harvard University, has for weeks been pushing for what he calls "crappy" tests.
His idea is to move away from the current high-precision molecular tests, known as PCR tests, which are still scarce in large swathes of the country and which people often have to wait hours to get done, and then have to wait days -- or up to a week -- for the results.