Church misinterpreted test results: Doctor

Saturday November 15 2014

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Health Commission chairman Paul Kariuki Njiru (right) addresses journalists on the tetanus vaccine controversy at Waumini House, Nairobi, on October 16, 2014. PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI |

Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops Health Commission chairman Paul Kariuki Njiru (right) addresses journalists on the tetanus vaccine controversy at Waumini House, Nairobi, on October 16, 2014. PHOTO | JENNIFER MUIRURI | NATION MEDIA GROUP

By VERAH OKEYO
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The controversy over the tetanus jab has deepened after one of the laboratories the Catholic Church used to test samples claimed that the church misinterpreted the results.

This comes even as Kenyans await results of a joint lab test to be carried out by the government and the church to determine the presence or otherwise of the Beta human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone that is said to cause miscarriages and sterility in women.

“The tetanus vaccine does not contain the Beta hCG group,” said the MD of Lancet, one of the six labs contracted, Dr Ahmed Kalebi.

The pathologist said the church misinterpreted the results of the tests that were conducted in his lab in March and October.

The controversy surrounding the tetanus vaccine seems to have placed the burden of proof on the church after the World Health Organisation and United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (Unicef) also dismissed the allegation.

ALTERNATIVE LABS
Dr Kalebi said the vials delivered to Lancet by the church were treated as human samples and not as vaccines. “We tested these samples as we would a request to determine pregnancy”.

The hCG hormone is produced in large amounts throughout pregnancy and therefore aids in determining results of a pregnancy test.

He added that it was not communicated to him and his team that the vials were a vaccine and not a human specimen.

“Had we been informed from the very beginning, we would have advised them on alternative labs to take the tests to for accurate results and even interpreted the data properly,” Dr Kalebi said.

He explained to the Sunday Nation on the telephone that there are specific procedures for conducting tests, and a numerical figure in a test cannot be interpreted to mean the presence or absence of an element in another test.

“We are a human-sample testing laboratory with equipment developed to carry out tests on serum, urine and other human specimens; the same procedures used on clinical tests on a matter such as pregnancy are not appropriate for tests such as a vaccine”.

INAPPROPRIATE TESTS
As a consequence of using these inappropriate tests, he said, low levels of hCG-like activity were found in some samples of the vaccine.

On Tuesday, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops tabled test results before the National Assembly’s Committee on Health to demonstrate that samples of the government-administered vaccine contained hCG.

The church’s health commission urged Kenyans to shun the vaccination campaign that started on October 13, saying it would cause infertility.

“We have irrefutable proof that the tetanus vaccines contain Beta hCG. When injected into a non-pregnant woman combined with the tetanus antigen, she develops antibodies against both tetanus and hCG and is thus unable to sustain a pregnancy,” said the Health Commission chairman, Bishop Paul Kariuki Njiru.

On Thursday, Director of Medical Services Nicholas Muraguri said a nine-member technical committee formed over the matter will provide professional advice on the safety concerns raised.