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Can we stop being willing guinea pigs?

A British newspaper has revealed that African babies were subjected to a potentially lethal vaccine as part of an experiment at Oxford University. Africans have been used as human guinea pigs before and yet we, or our authorities, seem accepting of the deadly practice.

"We are all born ignorant, but one must work hard to remain stupid"--Benjamin Franklin, one of the Founding Fathers of the United States.

The news on 3 September that "Oxford University is embroiled in an ethics row after scientists were accused of questionable conduct over a controversial trial of a new vaccine on African babies" must make Africans sit up and take notice. We cannot go on forever allowing ourselves to be used as guinea pigs by "do-gooders" from wonderland.

Is it in our stars or just plain foolishness that makes us Africans seem not to get it? As Lord Ritchie-Calder (the Scottish socialist author, journalist and academic who died in 1982) warned in The Lancet in 1968: "While one group of scientists is devoting its energies to prevent diseases, another is devising manmade epidemics leading to Public Health in Reverse ... There is a biological bomb lying at the heart of the nucleus, ticking us to destruction."

Lord Ritchie-Calder's warning has forever been on the lips of the Ghanaian medical doctor and pan-Africanist author/campaigner domiciled in the UK, Prof F.I.D. Konotey-Ahulu, who now calls him self "the self-appointed spokesman for Africa on clinical epidemiology".

In his copious writing spanning over 50 years, particularly in medical journals, Prof Konotey-Ahulu, one of the very best medical minds to come from Africa, has always been warning Africans that "scientific crooks abound" and therefore we should watch out. He calls them the "scientific sons of Belial", employing the imagery used by the Bible to describe such people.

But Africans don't seem to have ears to hear or even eyes to see. So 50 years after Lord Ritchie's warning, we still allow ourselves to be used as guinea pigs by Western medical experimenters, who have proved time and again that they don't give a hoot about what happens to the African.

The current case came to light in September this year when a Daily Telegraph story filed by Claire Newell and Edward Malnick, headlined "Oxford gave babies vaccine that 'did not work on monkeys'", quoted Prof Peter Beverley, a former senior academic at the university, as revealing that "scientists tested a new tuberculosis vaccine on more than a thousand infants without sharing data suggesting that monkeys given the immunisation had appeared to 'die rapidly'".

'"Certainly here in this experiment there was no evidence whatsoever that this is an effective booster vaccine,' Prof Beverley said. He also claimed the information was not given to regulators when an application to do the trial was initially submitted."

The Daily Telegraph continued: "In the monkey study, five out of six of the animals infected with TB who were given the experimental vaccine had become 'very unwell' and had to be put down. An information sheet given to families in South Africa participating in the trial said the vaccine had been tested on animals and humans and was 'safe and effective' in animals."

The story quoted Prof Jimmy Volmink, dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, as saying "the information sheet did not appear to reflect the monkey study, which was 'not right"'. Volmink added, most disturbingly: "There was no evidence whatsoever that this is an effective booster vaccine."

Yet "almost 1,500 babies in South Africa received the new jab and parents were paid around 10 [pounds sterling] to take part."

It's sad and tragic, isn't it? What is more: You can put your last Brexit pound on it that all the "almost 1,500 babies" were black! I don't know about you, but my personal frustration lies with modern Africans, especially those in responsible positions who have the power to stop such things from happening but appear to be so hard of hearing.

The real origin of Ebola?

In 2014, when Ebola broke out in Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia, many concerned Africans raised their voices against the blithe Western scientific explanation that blamed the origin of the ghastly pestilence on an infant in a small village in Guinea who, it was claimed, butchered a bat and ate it.

But that so-called scientific explanation flew in the face of the fact that secret laboratory work by Americans in Sierra Leone preceded the Ebola epidemic. So, like the origin of the HIV virus, "African green monkeys had nothing to do with it any more than eating bats precipitated the Ebola Virus Disease in West Africa", as Prof Konotey-Ahulu puts it.

In late 2016, Chernoh Alpha M. Bah (an award-winning Sierra Leonean journalist and political activist), published his book, The Ebola Outbreak in West Africa: Corporate Gangsters, Multinationals, and Rogue Politicians, in which he made the following telling comment:

"To argue that the 2014 West Africa epidemic took the scientific world by surprise is a deliberate effort to exonerate and extricate the role of biodefence funding and Western medical research from creating both the conditions for the epidemiological outbreak and simultaneously condoning its widespread transition."

Bah explained that: "Ten years prior to the Ebola outbreak, another disease that had plagued the region --the Lassa virus--was assessed by the US Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for its potential use as a bioterrorist agent. The CDC reclassification of the Lassa virus as a Category A pathogen turned Lassa fever into a threat against United States national security interests, opening up funding incentives and research possibilities for Western scientists and biotech companies.

"A Reuters article published in February 2011 characterised the laboratory erected at the [Sierra Leonean] government hospital in Kenema as an outpost of the 'war on terror,' fuelled by $40 million in biodefence dollars."

Bah went on: "The assemblage of actors that coalesced in the Viral Hemorrhagic Fever Consortium (VHFC) included Tulane University, Harvard University, and the San Francisco-based company Metabiota, which [was later slammed] for its role in a series of 'costly mistakes' during the Ebola outbreak.

"In other words, the biodefence research in Kenema was conducted in a high-risk, largely unprotected environment. It is therefore possible that the 2014 West Africa outbreak could have been the result of safety procedural violations at a hospital where a highly dangerous pathogen was being handled."

Bah's use of the phrase "could have been" was diplomatic because diligent Africans knew later that the epidemic broke out at the point when the American researchers at Kenema needed more people for their experiments.

Time to wake up

My anger in the latest case, however, is directed at the Africans who appear to have no ears to hear or eyes to see, and therefore continue to allow Western medical experimenters to use Africans as guinea pigs.

Listen to The Daily Telegraph: "The scientists at Oxford who carried out the trial maintain the jab was safe for children and their experiment was approved by several regulators in advance."

So who were the "regulators" sitting on the South African Medicines Control Council who approved the experiment when the vaccine had been killing monkeys 18 months before the approval?

According to The Daily Telegraph: "The monkey study that concerned Prof Beverley began in November 2006 and the application to test the vaccine in the Western Cape [province of South Africa] was submitted 18 months later. Around this time, Prof Beverley said he heard that the animals in the study had to be euthanised 'rather rapidly'.

"The baby trial [in South Africa] began in July 2009 and almost half of the 2,800 infants taking part were given the new jab. In 2013, the outcome of the infant trial was announced and concluded the new vaccine offered no extra protection."

Dear oh dear! For how long will this continue to happen to Africans? What sort of people have we become --that with the equivalent of 10 [pounds sterling] we present our babies as guinea pigs to be pricked with needles by strangers? It is very frustrating that the present generation of Africans pretend to be so dumb!

Caption: An African receives the Ebola vaccine. Medical trials may be needed for new drugs, but too often willing Africans are gulled into participating in dangerous studies, often for minor financial rewards
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Title Annotation:BAFFOUR'S BEEFS
Author:Ankomah, Baffour
Publication:New African
Geographic Code:60AFR
Date:Oct 1, 2017
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