We are not laboratory rats: Two French doctors have been accused of racism after calling for coronavirus vaccines to be trialled in Africa.
Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, and Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group, both said on French TV that there was a case for testing out the vaccines in African countries.
The pair faced a swift backlash online, with many saying the comments were racist.
But Inserm have argued that the doctors were misunderstood.
What did the doctors say?
“If I can be provocative, shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?” Dr Mira said on TV channel LCI.
“A bit like as it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”
“You are right,” Dr Locht responded.
“We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa.”
After the backlash, Inserm released a statement claiming that the video was “the subject of erroneous interpretations”.
“Clinical trials to test the efficacy of the BCG vaccine against Covid-19 are… about to be launched in European countries and in Australia,” it said.
BCG is a vaccination mostly given to babies in countries where tuberculosis is common.
Some recent studies have suggested that countries where BCG is administered reported fewer deaths related to Covid-19.
How Africans Reacted
The comments received an angry response on social media, including from former footballers Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.
“I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words,” Drogba tweeted.
“Do not take African people as human guinea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting,” he added.
“If there is indeed a reflection around a deployment in Africa, it would be done in parallel with these. Africa must not be forgotten or excluded from research because the pandemic is global.”
It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this.
Africa isn’t a testing lab.
I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words.
Helps us save Africa with the current ongoing Covid 19 and flatten the curve. pic.twitter.com/41GIpXaIYv
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) April 2, 2020
Let us save ourselves from this crazy virus that is plummeting the world economy and ravaging populations health worldwide.
Do not take African people as human guinnea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting…
— Didier Drogba (@didierdrogba) April 2, 2020
Our leaders must condemn this nonsense by the west. They have got more deaths from the virus than Africans. It is high time our leaders take a stand to defend innocent people against opportunistic foreign groups.
— Fedix (@FedixM) April 3, 2020
China 3,314 +
Africa only 23
Many Pandemics came but God has always protected African. #WeShallOvercomeCorona
They should use their Europe not Africa.
Let them Keep their EUROPE and let us keep our AFRICA#AfricansAreNotLabRats
— igweLEVY (@IgweLEVY) April 3, 2020
African leaders have made things worse with the Level of Corruption and sit tight Government we have in most African countries. I totally rejected such plans to use Africa as a testing ground for such we are not Lab rats. The test of the vaccine can start from 🇫🇷 .
— #Chloroquine #EndSARS #june12thprotest (@prettycachy) April 2, 2020
No one will savez africa but Africans, we need to understand that we are the solutions to our own problems & as long as we will wait for others to save us we will always be the victims of some nefarious plot. LETS SAVE OURSELVES by investing in education, research infrastructure
— Diaka Camara (@diakatop10) April 3, 2020
We are not sub humans where all trials must be conducted please let Africa be free of being dumping site.🙏
— Nomayela (@tnomayela) April 2, 2020
It is the 21st century, 2020 to be precised, and two French doctors, Jean Paul Mira and Camille Locht are suggesting testing of #COVIDー19 vaccine on Africans first on live TV. 'It seems France is the only country one can become a doctor without any education these days.' pic.twitter.com/XfAoCkIyey
— WADR (@WadrNews) April 3, 2020
What’s the coronavirus situation in Africa?
So far, Africa has been the continent least affected by the virus, but confirmed cases – and deaths – are increasing daily.
South Africa has the most confirmed cases – 1,462 – but just five confirmed deaths.
There have been 7,064 confirmed cases across the continent and 290 confirmed deaths, although there are fears the true number could be much higher.