Two French doctors have been blasted for racism after one of them suggested trialing a tuberculosis vaccine in Africa to determine whether it could combat the coronavirus, according to a new report.
The comments came during a debate on the French TV channel LCI, the BBC reported. Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group, had mentioned conducting a trial of the BCG vaccine in Europe and Australia.
“If I can be provocative,” responded Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin Hospital in Paris, “shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?”
“A bit like as it is done elsewhere for some studies on AIDS,” the doctor added, according to the report.
“In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”
Mira had earlier suggested that the study might not work as planned on health care workers in Europe and Australia, because they have access to personal protective equipment, guarding them from the contagion.
“You are right,” Locht responded.
“We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa,” he said, referencing the studies underway in other continents.
Two former soccer players in Africa blasted the doctors for their comments.
“It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this,” Didier Drogba tweeted. “Africa isn’t a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words.”
“Africa is not your playing ground,” Samuel Eto’o wrote on Instagram.
But in a statement obtained by the BBC, Inserm said the recorded debate 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.
“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.”
More than 7,000 coronavirus cases, and 290 deaths have been confirmed in Africa — though there are concerns many more have been infected.