The bitter tetanus vaccine fallout between the church and the government

Thursday November 6 2014

By LUIS FRANCESCHI
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There are people whom I cannot understand when they communicate. This difficulty can also apply to situations, and the one described below is one of them.

Who am I to question WHO, the World Health Organization ? When it comes to science, I’m a lay person.

As a matter of fact, a huge percentage of lawyers chose law to avoid biology, chemistry, physics or any combination of them. So I'll not pretend to go into this week’s ugly scientific debate on the tetanus vaccine.

On one hand, an association of doctors advised the Catholic bishops (luckily 'Prophet' Bishop Victor Kanyari was not among them) to reject the on-going WHO tetanus vaccine campaign.

On the other hand, the director of medical services of the Ministry of Health has accused his colleagues and the bishops of utter ignorance and sabotage. The debate has spilt out of the medical into the media realm.

This week I have received an unusual amount of email from both sides of the divide; from doctors supporting the WHO vaccine and from those opposing it. I will try to look at it from a sober, legal and human perspective.

Dr Osur explains that tetanus is a serious bacterial disease that causes the deaths of thousands of people annually. In 1990, tetanus caused 272,000 deaths worldwide, while in 2010, an estimated 61,000 people died.

The decrease in deaths is attributed to more people getting the tetanus vaccine. Deaths are more common in developing countries, where immunisation levels have remained relatively low.

The infection enters their bodies through the wound of the navel, which remains fresh for a number of days after birth. It is especially common where women deliver at home under unsterile conditions.

In Kenya, home deliveries are still common; in fact in some counties over 75 per cent of women deliver at home, and their babies are at risk of being infected with tetanus.

TETANUS KILLS

Dr Osur assures that the tetanus vaccine has no effect on the fertility of a woman. Claims that the vaccine affects a woman's ability to bear children are unfounded and it is not clear whom they benefit since both the church and the medical fraternity would want to protect women and their children from dying from tetanus and other preventable diseases.

This means that there are some clear facts. Tetanus kills and vaccination is a must. This seems to be agreed on by all, or at least it should be. Why then does such controversy arise?

In 1993, WHO reported the development and experimentation of Fertility Regulating Vaccines (FRVs).

In this report of limited circulation (WHO/HRP/93.1), WHO says that “the most advanced research of FRVs involves vaccines directed against the hormone hCG (human Chorionic Gonadotropin), which is produced by the cells surrounding the embryo (and later by the placenta) and it is required for the establishment and maintenance of pregnancy.

SOME VIALS CONTAMINATED

"Studies in primates have shown that immunization with anti-hCG vaccines will render the animals infertile without any detectable alteration to their menstrual cycle.”

The following year, the Global Vaccine Institute issued a bitter statement about tetanus vaccines carrying hCG hormones in the Philippines. Both WHO and the government denied these accusations.

They were confronted with independent lab results, which detected its presence in three of the four vials of tetanus toxoid.

WHO argued that there was an "insignificant" quantity of the hCG present and it accepted that a few vaccines may have been contaminated with hCG during the production process.

Doctors claimed that hCG was not a component nor was it used in the production of any vaccine, let alone tetanus.

Since hCG is natural to the body, the body would in normal circumstances not develop antibodies against it, however, if a part of the hormone is attached to the tetanus vaccine, the body develops antibodies against both the tetanus and the hCG.

'MANY MISCARRIAGES ENSUED'

The accusations were serious. Doctors claimed that WHO, or some people within WHO, had conducted massive sterilisation in Mexico in 1993, and in Nicaragua and Philippines in 1994, using tetanus as an excuse. The campaign targeted girls and women aged 14–49 years and each received a total of 5 injections, without informed consent.

The BBC Horizon program entitled “The Human Laboratory” noted that Filipino women of childbearing age were administered the tainted vaccine and many miscarriages ensued; twenty-six out of thirty Filipino women tested positive for high levels of anti-hCG.

Similar claims were made again in 2004 during a Unicef-sponsored Nigerian polio vaccine program.

Dr Ngare, a gynaecologist, says that generally speaking, the tetanus vaccines available in the country are clean. The concern of many doctors is based on the fact that the WHO/Unicef-sponsored tetanus immunisation campaign launched last year in October uses a vaccine that was imported into the country specifically for this purpose, and bears a different batch number from the regular tetanus toxoid.

THE FILIPINO CASE

Dr Ngare claims that a similar vaccine was brought to Kenya in 1995 and some concerned leaders raised the red flag. The minister of Health directed that the vaccine should be tested before the campaign. WHO opted to withdraw the vaccine instead of allowing it to be tested for hCG.

The similarity between this tetanus campaign and the South American and Filipino “experiments” is raising many eyebrows. The target population is girls and women between the ages of 14–49 years. It is being given every six months.

Dr Ngare claims that five independent labs have found that this tetanus vaccine is laced with hCG just like the one used in South America and Asia. If this is the case, we are witnessing mass sterilisation, a crime against humanity.

NOT RELIGIOUS OR POLITICAL

It would be outrageous to use the tetanus campaign to regulate fertility without disclosing its "contraceptive effect" to the girls and the mothers.

Accusations have been literally flying to and fro; many of them against the persons involved. It's usually a bad idea to attack the holders of a position instead of the position itself. This is wrong and weak.

This issue is not, and should not, become religious or political. It is a social issue based on scientific evidence. So, science and law should seek to answer the matter without abusing anyone.

I am nobody to judge the scientific basis and the peculiarities of the vaccine. I leave this to the scientists. However, I would like to invite some reflection that could shed some light from the human rights point of view.

ACT OF RAPE AGAINST HOPE

Forced conception and forced sterilisation are an abuse against freedom and the sacrosanct realm of the personal conscience. Both are a violation against the person; they are an act of rape against hope, freedom and dignity.

Social engineering has never been sustainable and the secret sooner or later spills into the public domain. This is the story of Hitler's regime, blacks in America, South American Indians, and Africa.

This is the story of most totalitarian and racist regimes, where a minority is perceived as disposable and inferior.

Could WHO have become an instrument of forced human manipulation and eugenics? Who knows? WHO says no. It is essential to entrust this matter to an impartial scientifically qualified third party.

THE CHURCH IN HEALTH CARE

Government, churches and WHO must come together and work together. The three are key players in our health-care system. Anyone who looks down upon the Church’s health-care involvement and capacity is ignorant and has not travelled too far outside Nairobi.

The divide can be easily remedied. It is a matter of trust. The solution is simple, but requires from all sides a little token of humility and the capacity to back-pedal.

The government should bring on board the Church and representatives from WHO and hand in genuine samples of this vaccine batch to independent labs. If the vaccine is laced with hCG, then the campaign should be suspended. If it is not, the Church should apologise and support the campaign.

Clearly, one of the two should back-pedal, and this depends purely on scientific evidence, not religious or moral convictions.

INDEPENDENT TESTING URGENT

The matter is so delicate and serious that key players in the Health ministry and WHO could end up in the ICC if the batch used for this campaign is found to have been laced with hCG.

The Rome Statute is very clear about this. Article 7, 1 (g) classifies “enforced sterilisation” as a crime against humanity. And the fact that this exercise is being carried out in only 60 districts could also trigger the application of clause (h) on “persecution against any identifiable group or collectivity on political, racial, national, ethnic, cultural, religious, gender…or other grounds that are universally recognized as impermissible under international law.”

Independent scientific testing is urgent, and if positive, history will interrogate the players "who did this". The answer can't be WHO. For WHO doesn't act without who's approval.

After all, who am I to judge WHO, and who is WHO to “contracept” anybody without his or her free consent?