Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: IANS
Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus. Picture: IANS

WHO chief slams 'racist' French doctors who want to test Covid-19 vaccines in Africa

By Sihle Mavuso Time of article published Apr 7, 2020

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Durban - The Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO) Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus slammed a proposal by French doctors to have any future Covid-19 vaccine tested on the African continent.

Ghebreyesus, an Ethiopian microbiologist and internationally recognised malaria researcher who heads the Geneva-based UN agencies tasked with global health issues, slammed the proposal as “racist”.

He was addressing the global media on Monday when the issue popped up and took a rare step for a UN agency that is perceived to be prone to Western governments bias.

The two French doctors, Camille Locht, the head of research at the Inserm health research group and Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris nodded in agreement during a televised debate that Africa is the ideal place for the trials because of the poor health infrastructure.

They also perpetuated the centuries-old western stereotypes that Africans are reckless with their health and are highly exposed to diseases.  

Ghebreyesus lashed out at the pair, saying their utterances are not only racist but also appalling at a time when the world needs solidarity. 

“On the vaccines issue, there was a, I think a comment last week I think from some couple of scientists (the two French doctors) who said that testing ground for the new vaccines will be Africa. To be honest, I was so appalled and it was a time when I said when we needed solidarity. This kind of racist remarks actually would not help. It goes against solidarity. Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine. We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world using exactly the same rule, whether it’s in Europe, Africa, or wherever, we will use the same protocol,” he said. 

%%%twitter">@DrTedrosin response to two French doctors suggesting a potential vaccine be trialed in Africa.

— Barry Malone (@malonebarry)

Interestingly, Monday’s harsh condemnation of the French doctors gained no prominent coverage from major Western media outlets. Only the BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) ran it albeit on a low-key basis. Its other counterparts who always amplify pro-Western messages from UN agencies were mum this time around. 

In Africa, no major continental organisation, including the African Union (AU) which is perceived to be run by pro-French African leaders, has condemned the French doctors. Other prominent regional blocks like SADC (Southern African Development Community) and ECOWAS (Economic Community of West African States) which has got a large number of Francophone countries were mum. 

Despite that, two prominent footballers, Didier Drogba (from Ivory Coast) and Samuel Eto'o (Cameroon), who ironically come from Francophone countries who are run by leaders who are perceived to be in power at the behest of the French, risked it all and condemned the doctors. Drogba told the French doctor that "Africa isn’t a testing lab". This was while Eto's called the two French doctors "murderers".

Further adding fuel to the vaccine fire over the weekend in South Africa was a fake news reporting by News24 on Saturday that Microsoft founder, Bill Gates wanted to test Covid-19 vaccine in Africa. The news portal has since retracted the fake story and apologised to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and pointed out that Gates never said that.

Political Bureau

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