The Tetanus Vaccine Controversy: Kenya should suspend the campaign

December 2, 2014 OPINION/NEWS




Joe Khamisi

When the HIV first surfaced in the early 1980s, a finger was pointed at chimpanzees in West Africa as the source. That theory was given much credence by scientists at the Fourth International Conference on the HIV/AIDS in Sweden in 1988, which I attended.

While they admitted that the first casualties of the killer virus were gay men in New York and California, the scientists nevertheless concluded that consumption of contaminated chimpanzee meat in Africa was the genesis of the disease.

In 1976, the first reports of Ebola emerged. Again, gorillas and chimpanzees around the Ebola River in the Democratic Republic of Congo were blamed. The primates, health experts said, caught the virus and then passed it on to Africans; the Africans then spread it on.

After much research, some scientists today no longer subscribe to that line of argument. They say Ebola did not emanate from Africa or anywhere else, but was created in a laboratory somewhere in the West.

So, is the continent of Africa blamed unfairly for the explosion of these pandemics? This is a question that remains to be answered, as the debate is still on.

But what is clear is that an increasing number of global pharmaceutical companies are using developing countries as the testing ground for their experimental drugs; and the poor as the guinea pigs. These test drugs are causing a lot of pain to people.

Africa has also for decades been used as a dumping ground for all kinds of waste – from electronic waste (TVs, cell-phones and computers) to processed industrial waste – materials that continue to hurt people and the environment.

That is why the tetanus vaccine controversy raging in Kenya is not misplaced. Could this be another way of hurting our people?

UNICEF and WHO, the two global organisations that are behind this vaccine and the Kenya Government, which is anxious to implement it, have failed to convince people that the drug is safe, and that it doesn’t contain sterilisation chemicals as claimed by the Catholic Church.

Kenya is not the only country asking questions. Nicaragua, Mexico and Philippines, are some of the countries, that have raised the red flag over the use of the tetanus vaccine.

In some places in the world, doctors have abandoned altogether administering the vaccine – along with vaccines against whooping cough and measles – because of what they say, is their disabling and deadly effects.

So the Church and the Kenya Catholic Doctors’ Association are right to question the safety of this drug and demand its suspension.

After all, Kenya does not have a tetanus crisis, and the campaign is not urgent.

The experiences of women who used Depo Provera, the contraceptive implant – before it was banned in Kenya some years ago – are still fresh in our minds. Let us not make the same mistake by making a rush decision to implement a vaccine whose implications are clearly obscure.

Let the government suspend the campaign until a thorough evaluation is conducted to determine its safety. This is not too much to ask.





Joe Khamisi

Joe Khamisi is a former journalist, diplomat and Member of Parliament. He is also the Author of the Politics of Betrayal:Diary of a Kenyan Legislator, a political memoir about the situation in Kenya between 2001, when the ruling party of President Daniel Arap Moi, the Kenya African National Union (KANU), merged with Raila Odinga’s National Development Party.

The book also narrates cases of corruption in Parliament and in the Media and records Senator Obama’s visit to Kenya in 2006. As a friend of Barack Obama Senior, the author also remembers the times and tragedies of the American-educated economist.

Joe Khamisi’s second book, a biography, ‘Dash Before Dusk’, is currently awaiting publication.

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In addition to the above books, Joe Khamisi blogs at and for media enquiries can be reached at [email protected]

(This article is courtesy of Joe Khamisi and was originally published at the above blog on 9th November 2014)


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