Two French doctors upset people across the globe after they suggested researchers test a potential coronavirus treatment in Africa.
Dr. Jean-Paul Mira and Dr. Camille Locht appeared on French television channel LCI to discuss the potential use of a tuberculosis vaccine to treat COVID-19. Testing trials for use of the vaccine as a treatment against the new coronavirus disease are scheduled to happen in Europe and Australia, reported Al Jazeera. Mira is the head of the intensive care unit at Cochin Hospital in Paris, and Locht is the research director at France’s national health institute.
Mira, seemingly aware of the controversial nature of his statement, believed Africa should be included due to the continent’s lack of resources.
“It may be provocative,” Mira said. “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?”
Locht agreed with Mira’s idea.
“You are right,” he responded. “And by the way, we are thinking of in parallel about a study in Africa using this same approach.”
The motherland isn’t as affected by the pandemic compared to other continents. There have been more than 8,000 diagnoses in Africa and 338 deaths, according to BBC.
The comments sparked outrage on social media.
“As an African woman, this brought tears to my eyes. From these French doctors, to western ideologue elites, to stakeholders at international organizations… they see Africans as lab rats,” tweeted Obianuju Ekeocha.
“African governments must pay attention to incoming threats from the West. In times of scarcity, attacks on African bodies & our resources are justified,” warned another critic, identified as Doreen. “These medical research French doctors are on television suggesting that Africa be where they test the coronavirus vaccine.”
“If this French translation is accurate these doctors share in public what some white folks do behind the scenes against Africa. This time it’s to treat Africans as guinea pigs for #COVIDー19 as they did with AIDS Yet our lived experience of racism is denied & called anti-white,” wrote Dr. Shola Mos-Shogbamimu.
“It’s appalling how these French doctors said on national TV that Covid-19 vaccines should be tested on Africans. So African aren’t or less human? If this isn’t racism, NOTHING is. It reminds one of slavery, colonialism and the imbalance in the world order,” tweeted Bulama Bukarti.
Mira later apologized for the wording of his suggestion via a statement shared by his employer.
“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,” the statement read.
He also clarified his assertions during an interview with HuffPost.
“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,” Mira explained.
“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.”
Locht hasn’t addressed the controversy, but his employer is defensive on his behalf.
“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,” Inserm tweeted with the hashtag #fakenews.
“If there is indeed a reflection around a deployment in Africa, it would be done in parallel with these,” the statement continued. “Africa must not be forgotten or excluded from research because the pandemic is global.”