He was referring to comments made last week by Dr. Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care services at Cochin Hospital in Paris, and Camille Locht, director of research at the French National Institute of Health and medical research (Inserm).
The two doctors appeared on French television on LCI last Wednesday, where they discussed whether the BCG tuberculosis vaccine could be a potential treatment for Covid-19. The drug is currently undergoing clinical trials in the Netherlands and Australia.
It was then that Mira suggested that Africa might be the ideal place to conduct a clinical trial.
“Sort of like some AIDS studies, where with prostitutes we try things because we know they are very exposed and they don’t protect themselves,” he said. added during a conversation.
“You’re right,” replied Loch. “And we are thinking of a study in Africa in parallel to carry out the same type of approach with BCG, a placebo …”
“Africa is not a testing laboratory”
Once the conversation between doctors resurfaced on social media, the reaction was swift and angry.
The Esprit D’Ebene group, which works with marginalized young people of African descent in France, said on Facebook that “this type of proposal should never be tolerated again … no matter where it is in the world”.
“(Africans) are not laboratory rats on which we can try pharmaceutical products without any guarantee for their safety!” The group posted.
One of the most prominent critical voices was retired Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba.
“Africa is not a test laboratory,” Drogba wrote on Twitter. “I would strongly denounce these degrading, false and above all racist comments. “
Mira apologized in a statement issued Friday by Cochin Hospital, saying, “I want to apologize to those who were struck, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks I made awkwardly at LCI this week, because these remarks do not reflect at all what I am, and what I do every day, for almost 30 years now. “
He subsequently amended the statement, adding that “Camille Locht understands the emotions provoked since yesterday, linked to his lack of reaction to the proposals made by his interlocutor, on LCI television during a live broadcast. The conditions under which this interview was carried out were not allowing him to react correctly, he apologizes and notes that he did not make racist remarks. “
“The sole purpose of his intervention was to confirm that the epidemic was global in scope and that all countries should be able to benefit from the results of the research,” said the institute, as he attempted to clarify Locht’s position .
“If there is a reflection on a deployment in Africa, it will be done in parallel with these. Africa must not be forgotten or excluded from research because the pandemic is global, “he added.
An association of lawyers in Morocco described Mira’s remarks as “racist, discriminatory and hateful” and said that she would file an official complaint with the French prosecutor, the association’s spokesperson and the vice-president Mourad Elajouti.
The French Socialist Opposition Party also condemned his remarks, saying in a statement “with all due respect to these renowned researchers, Africa is not a laboratory for guinea pigs”.
French researcher Marianne Séverin told CNN that the remarks “tarnished the reputation” of researchers working on the continent. “It damages the reputation of all French scientists who study Africa,” she said. “With just these two on TV, our reputation has been tarnished again. “