Khwezi Science Report

PODCAST | Is Africa still the world’s drug-test guinea pig?

Politics and mistrust are threatening to derail the global effort for a Covid-19 vaccine

28 October 2020 - 21:14
A patient receives a Covid-19 vaccination at a Johannesburg hospital during a trial.
DOSE OF OPTIMISM A patient receives a Covid-19 vaccination at a Johannesburg hospital during a trial.
Image: Alaister Russell/The Sunday Times

As scientists expedite research into a suitable Covid-19 vaccine, global efforts are at risk of being undermined by politics.

Ahead of the US election, Republican leaders are claiming to be days away from a worthy candidate, with the left saying it’s a power play.

Russia threw down the gauntlet a few weeks ago, much to the scorn of the West, while in China, citizens are travelling hundreds of kilometres to ask for a jab still in development.

Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro has snubbed China by saying “the Brazilian people will not be anyone’s guinea pig ... That is why I have decided not to purchase this vaccine”.

SA vaccine trials are under way as part of an international effort, while some on the continent mistrust scientific developments because of an interview on French TV that went horribly wrong.

Vaccines do not happen in a vacuum. This podcast explores how the French interview is an example of a sociopolitical moment that threatens to derail a huge global effort in urgent healthcare.

It also explores the power imbalances during colonialism in the early 19th century in Africa and how that context is a brutal example of how not to test drugs.

Here is what you need to know:

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