South African Protesters Refuse to be ‘Lab Rats’ in Coronavirus Trials


(Photo by MARCO LONGARI/AFP via Getty Images)

*Demonstrators in South Africa are pushing back against COVID-19 test trials being carried out by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation’s GAVI Alliance.

Anti-vaccine protests are reportedly taking place outside the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, where the tests will be conducted, per MadameNoire. Demonstrators have reportedly burned their face masks and carried signs blasting GAVI for selecting South Africans for the continent’s first clinical trials.

Signs read “We are not guinea pigs,” and “Why not test Bill Gates vaccine on whites,”

“#Gates we are not your lab rats,” one sign read, adding, “AFRICA is not your playground.”

“#No to Gates poison… we don’t want the gates of hell here,” another sign stated.

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According to Reuters, the trials are backed by the Department of Health and the South Africa Medical Research Council. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is funding it. 

The protest’s organizer, Phapano Pasha, told the Associated Press she’s not anti-vaccine, but fears these entities are taking advantage of an uninformed people. 

“I believe in science,” Pasha said. “And I believe that science has managed to solve most of the problems society is faced with. I’m not against vaccinations, I’m against profiteering.”

According to reports, the trial seeks 2,000 volunteers between the ages of 18-65.

“The people chosen as volunteers for the vaccination, they look as if they’re from poor backgrounds, not qualified enough to understand” she said. “We believe they are manipulating the vulnerable.”

“The narrative we got is our continent is a dumping ground,” said Pasha, pointing to comments by French researcher Jean-Paul Mira, who asked, “Shouldn’t we be doing this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care, a little bit like we did in certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?”

Mira was previously blasted for suggesting that COVID-19 trials should begin in Africa.

“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 Mira, head of ICU services at the Cochin Hospital in Paris.

If coronavirus trails are successful, the vaccine would be available by October next 2021, the report states.  

“We are not going to follow a vaccine because we as healers believe that our traditional medicine is not given a chance,” Sellwane Mokatsi, a protester said in an interview with Reuters.

On its website, GAVI acknowledges that Africans are skeptical of medical trails due to their history of being used as test subjects in previous experiments:

“Vaccine trials in Africa are a sensitive and potentially controversial issue, because of instances of Western researchers conducting unethical trials in African countries, and scientists undertaking medical experiments on people of African origin in the USA.”

South Africa allegedly has over 150,000 COVID-19 cases and over 2,600 deaths. 

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