French embassy condemns ‘test in Africa’ vaccine comments by French doctors

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People fleeing from Bouake carry their possessions on their heads as they walk past a French army checkpoint five kilometers from the centre of Bouake on October 11, 2002. Bouake, Ivory Coast's second city has been in rebel hands since September 19, 2002.

The French embassy in South Africa on Saturday expressed dismay at comments made by French doctors during a television interview in which they discussed testing a coronavirus vaccine in Africa.

“We are deeply shocked by these comments, that of course, do not reflect the position of the French authorities,” the embassy said in a statement.

During the program, which aired on the French channel LCI on Wednesday, Camille Locht, head of research at the National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM) and Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin Hospital in Paris, discussed whether Africa could be a good test location.

At one point, they suggested Africa was a possible location, as people did not have masks, treatments or resuscitation.

The discussion caused an uproar with many, including Ivory Coast and international footballer Didier Drogba, taking to social media to express disgust at the “racist” views and that “Africa isn’t a testing lab.”

Mira has since apologized while INSERM said the comments had been misunderstood.

“A truncated video, taken from an LCI interview with one of our researchers about studies of the potential use of the BCG vaccine to fight Covid-19, is currently the subject of misinterpretation,” they said in a statement.

The BCG (Bacillus Calmette-Guerin) vaccine has been used successfully against tuberculosis.

Meanwhile, on Saturday, Dr. Jean-Jacques Muyembe who heads up the National Institute for Biomedical Research in the Congo said the country was a candidate for coronavirus vaccine trials should they also take place in the United States, Asia and Europe.

Trials for Ebola vaccines ran in Congo when the central African country was hit by an epidemic in 2018. In early March, Congo celebrated the longest period without a new infection, although the epidemic has not been declared over just yet.

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