The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has condemned as “racist” the comments by two French doctors who suggested a vaccine for the coronavirus could be tested in Africa.
“Africa can’t and won’t be a testing ground for any vaccine,” said Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.
The doctors’ remarks during a TV debate sparked outrage, and they were accused of treating Africans like “human guinea pigs”.
One of them later issued an apology.
When asked about the doctors’ suggestion during the WHO’s coronavirus briefing, Dr Tedros became visibly angry, calling it a hangover from the “colonial mentality”.
“It was a disgrace, appalling, to hear during the 21st Century, to hear from scientists, that kind of remark. We condemn this in the strongest terms possible, and we assure you that this will not happen,” he said.
As the number of confirmed cases in Africa continues to rise, some governments are imposing stricter measures to try to slow the spread of the virus.
The show sparked widespread anger, including from former footballer Didier Drogba, who called the comments “deeply racist”. He added: “Do not take African people as human guinea pigs! It’s absolutely disgusting”.
Fellow former footballer Samuel Eto’o called the doctors “murderers”.
The doctors’ comments have also fuelled existing fears in Africa that African people will be used as guinea pigs for a new coronavirus vaccine.