Racism row as French doctors suggest virus vaccine test in Africa

Two doctors spark criticism for discussing in a TV show the idea of testing a vaccine for the coronavirus in Africa.

Africa is currently the continent least affected by COVID-19, with nearly 7,500 cases and more than 320 deaths [File: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]
Africa is currently the continent least affected by COVID-19, with nearly 7,500 cases and more than 320 deaths [File: Yasuyoshi Chiba/AFP]

Two French doctors have been accused of racism for suggesting that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on people in Africa.

The comments were made on the French television channel, LCI, during a discussion on Wednesday about COVID-19 trials set to be launched in Europe and Australia to see if the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be used to treat the virus.

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"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."


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