French doctor apologizes after suggesting Africa for coronavirus tests
A French doctor has issued an apology after he was criticized on social media for suggesting testing for a vaccine for the novel coronavirus be carried out in Africa.
According to NBC News, Jean-Paul Mira, who heads the intensive care unit at a hospital in Paris, made the case for the idea in an interview that went live on a French television channel last week.
“If I could be provocative, shouldn’t we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, treatment, or intensive care, a little bit like we did in certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?” Mira reportedly said in the interview.
“We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves,” the doctor continued.
Camille Locht, a research director for the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research who had also reportedly participated in the interview, said Mira was “right” when he responded to the doctor and also discussed a potential study in Africa using the “same kind of approach with the BCG placebos.”
The BCG, or Bacillus Calmette–Guérin, vaccine is used to prevent tuberculosis.
The remarks from the two doctors have generated a wave of backlash from online users in recent days, including from former Ivorian footballer Didier Drogba, who condemned the comments as racist.
“Africa isn’t a testing lab,” he tweeted last week. “I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists words. Helps us save Africa with the current ongoing Covid 19 and flatten the curve.”
The remarks also drew criticism from World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, who described the comments as a “hangover from a colonial mentality” during a briefing earlier this week, CNN reports.
“To be honest, I was so appalled. And it was a time when I said — when we needed solidarity. This kind of racist remarks actually would not help, it goes against the solidarity,” he said then.
NBC News reports that Mira apologized for the comments in a statement released by his employer on Friday, saying, “I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks that I clumsily expressed on LCI this week.”
In a press release seen by CNN, the institute where Locht is employed reportedly pushed back against some of the criticism at first and said the controversial remarks were “the subject of erroneous interpretations on social media.”
In a follow-up statement, however, the institute reportedly said that “Locht understands the emotions caused since yesterday, linked to his lack of reaction to the proposals made by his interlocutor, on LCI television during a live show.”
“The conditions that this interview were carried out in did not allow him to react correctly, he apologizes and noted that he did not utter any racist remarks,” the employer also reportedly said, adding, “The only goal of his intervention was to confirm that the epidemic was of a global scale and that all countries should be able to benefit from the results of research.”
“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,” the institute said.
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