Two senior doctors, Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, and Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group suggested that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on people from the African continent.
According to them, since Africa has ‘no masks, no treatments and no resuscitation’ for people suffering from the virus, the ‘people were highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves’.
“It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it’s been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and don’t protect themselves?” said Jean-Paul Mira, head of the intensive care unit at the Cochin Hospital in Paris.
Camille Locht, research director at France’s national health institute, Inserm, agreed: “You are right. And by the way, we are thinking of in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”
It did not take long for people to react to these statements expressing their anger on social media with many viewers calling the comments racist.
Former footballer Didier Drogba also reacted through his twitter account: ‘It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this. Africa is not a testing lab. ‘I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words. Do not take African people as human guinea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting.’
The anti-racism group SOS Racisme called on France’s media regulator, the Conseil Supérieur de L’Audiovisuel (CSA), to formally condemn the remarks.
The group issued a statement that says, “No, Africans aren’t guinea pigs”, adding that comparison with AIDS and prostitutes was “problematic” and “unwelcome”.
One of the doctors apologised
“I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks that I clumsily expressed on LCI this week,” Jean-Paul Mira said and later in an interview with the Huffington Post, he expressed: “Africa could be even more exposed to serious forms of harm because there will be so few masks and little confinement because of societal structure.”
“It seemed interesting to me that in addition to France and Australia, an African country could participate in this study which I had never heard of before hearing about it on the show,” he added.
As for the other doctor, on Twitter, Inserm, Locht’s employer, posted a statement accompanied by the hashtag #FakeNews.
“A distorted video, taken from an interview on LCI with one of our researchers about a study on the potential use of the BCG vaccine against COVID-19, is now the subject of erroneous interpretation,” the statement said.
It added that Africa “shouldn’t be forgotten or excluded from this research because the pandemic is global”.