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Coronavirus: France racism row over doctors' Africa testing comments

Jo Majesty

April. 03, 2020

Two French doctors have been accused of racism after calling for coronavirus vaccines to be trialed in Africa.
Jean-Paul Mira, head of intensive care at Cochin hospital in Paris, and Camille Locht, head of research at the Inserm health research group, both said on French TV that there was a case for testing out the vaccines in African countries.
The pair faced a swift backlash online, with many saying the comments were racist.
But Inserm have argued that the doctors were misunderstood.
What did the doctors say?
“If I can be provocative, shouldn't we be doing this study in Africa, where there are no masks, no treatments, no resuscitation?” Dr Mira said on TV channel LCI.
“A bit like as it is done elsewhere for some studies on Aids. In prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and that they do not protect themselves.”
Image copyright Getty Images Image caption Didier Drogba, pictured playing for Chelsea in 2014, was among those to voice concern
“You are right,” Dr Locht responded.
"We are in the process of thinking about a study in parallel in Africa."
What has the reaction been?
The comments received an angry response on social media, including from former footballers Didier Drogba and Samuel Eto’o.
“I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racist words,” Drogba tweeted.
“Do not take African people as human guinea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting,” he added.
Eto'o called the doctors "assassins".
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But Inserm said in a statement that the video 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."
BCG is a vaccination mostly given to babies in countries where tuberculosis is common.
Some recent studies have suggested that countries where BCG is administered reported fewer deaths related to Covid-19.
What's the coronavirus situation in Africa?
So far, Africa has been the continent least affected by the virus, but confirmed cases - and deaths - are increasing.
South Africa has the most confirmed cases - 1,462 - but just five confirmed deaths.
There have been 7,064 confirmed cases across the continent and 290 confirmed deaths, although there are fears the true number could be much higher.
Italy has the highest death toll in the world, with about 14,000 deaths.
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