The recent failure of experimental HIV vaccine produced by American Multinational drugmaker Johnson & Johnson in Sub-Saharan African countries raises major concerns. According to claims by the company, the decision to withdraw the experiment themed “Imbokodo” was based on a record low efficacy rate.
Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) said “Although this is certainly not the study outcome for which we had hoped, we must apply the knowledge learned from the Imbokodo trial.”
The experiment which sampled 2,600 participants across five Southern African countries triggered many critical questions informed basically by prior experience from clinical trials on the continent which failed to meet accepted practice standards.
According to research briefing by SOMO and Wemos, an earlier experiment held at the Clinical Research Centre and the Research Unit on AIDS in Uganda, and the University of Zimbabwe College of Health Sciences revealed that the risk involved in such experiment may not have been sufficiently explained to the participants. The research also reported a possible abuse of desperation of participants to get treatment.
On a separate Tenofovir trial on HIV transmission held in Cameroon, the report found that “five women became HIV-infected while enrolled in the Tenofir-study.” The report further indicated that, “Non-governmental organizations (NGOs) claim the 400 sex workers participating in the trial were not adequately informed about the risks and only English information was given to mostly French-speaking volunteers. There was a lack of ARVs for patients infected during the trial.”
Despite claims by Johnson & Johnson that the failure will not expose the participants to any serious side effects, there has been calls for an independent investigation by African team to verify such claim. Investigators on the earlier DART trial in Uganda equally denied the possibility of lethal side effects. However, the report found that “evidence confirmed that some trial participants were at increased risk of adverse events, including death.”
AFRICA AS A TEST LAB?
Part of the worries as monitored by EyeGambia duels on the occurrences at the preliminary stages of the covid Pandemic. It would be recalled that a debate between Professor Jean-Paul Mira of Cochin Hospital in Paris and Camille Locht of INSERM (France’s national medical research centre) on French television channel La Chaine produced certain unfavorable comments about vaccine experiment in Africa.
Mira asked: “If I may be provocative, should this study not be done in Africa?” Then Locht replied by saying, “You are right. We are currently thinking similarly about a study in Africa regarding the BCG vaccine. There is a proposal that has gone out — or will. We will seriously consider it.”
This position generated an outrage with the likes of former Chelsea star, Didier Drogba openly calling out the two for the reckless comment. Responding to the comment, Drogba said “It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this. Africa is not a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words…Do not take African people as human guinea pigs! It is absolutely disgusting. African leaders have a responsibility to protect their populations from those horrendous conspiracies. May god protect us!”
His agitation then is not far different from that of today’s critics of the failed J & J project. What do you make of such experiments in Africa?