The UN’s health agency has condemned remarks by two doctors who suggested that a potential vaccine for coronavirus should first be tested on Africans.
World Health Organisation (WHO) chief Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus termed the remarks as racist.
“Africa cannot and will not be a testing ground for any vaccine,” the director-general said in a statement.
“We will follow all the rules to test any vaccine or therapeutics all over the world...whether it is in Europe, Africa or wherever.”
The distasteful comments were made on the French television channel, LCI, during a discussion about Covid-19 vaccine trials yet to be launched.
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This is as the world grapples to find a vaccine for the virus that has so far killed 74,783 and infected 1,347,689 people as of Tuesday, April 7.
The doctors were accused of treating Africans like "human guinea pigs".
Dr Jean-Paul Mira, the head of intensive care at Cochin Hospital in Paris, and Dr Camille Locht, the head of research at the Inserm health research group, both suggested that the coronavirus vaccine should be tested on Africans.
Dr Mira said the tests would yield better results if carried out in Africa.
“It may be provocative. Should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment or intensive care, a little bit like it's been done for certain AIDS studies, where among prostitutes, we try things because we know that they are highly exposed and don't protect themselves,” said Jean-Paul Mira.
Dr Camille Locht agreed: “You're right, we are thinking in parallel by the way about a study in Africa with the same kind of approach, (but) it doesn't prevent us from being able to think about a study in Europe and Australia at the same time.”
Dr Mira later issued an apology over the remarks. “I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks I clumsily expressed.”
The TV debate caused an uproar with many taking to social media to express disgust at what they termed as "racist" views.
"Africa isn't a testing lab," retired Ivory Coast football star Didier Drogba said.
The French embassy in South Africa expressed dismay at the comments. “We are deeply shocked by these comments, that of course, do not reflect the position of the French authorities.”
French group SOS Racisme also said Africans aren't guinea pigs adding that comparison with AIDS and prostitutes was "problematic" and "unwelcome".