The death of George Floyd has unveiled many atrocities done to harm black people all over the world. We have seen all races united to give us a voice. During COVID-19, poverty, health disparities and comorbidities such as HTN and diabetes have claimed the lives of black people more than other races. Black people have been hit by a double edged sword, everywhere they turn, they are being exploited, killed or harmed and pharmaceuticals are guilty as well, they see black poor people, they see gold, they test medications, vaccines and perform medical trials, yet black people do not reap what these companies harvest: they do not enjoy the proceeds, yet remain poor, die from harm or plain simple, contribute without enough compensation
Amid all the riots and chaos in the world, I was watching the evening news where I saw some black South Africans sitting on a bench waiting for their turn to get the COVID-19 vaccine. My heart sank; I was so helpless, I sobbed. I called my daughter, who will be taking step one exam to complete her medical degree and become a physician to watch with me. This has been a hot topic in my household, and it should be time for change. My daughter has been involved in research and has evidenced the unfair treatment of blacks. I was outraged; I could not finish my dinner.
Africans Used for Testing COVOD-19 Vaccines
We witnessed the French doctors on television, not knowing that they were being taped discussing their plan to test the COVID-19 vaccine in Africans (Kossoff, 2020). Numerous relatives from South Africa and Zimbabwe have been calling us seeking advice about the vaccine trials, and we told them to absolutely not to take it. There goes another Tuskegee again. How long can black people suffer, not only racism, health disparities, but they are subject to many medical trials and vaccines that can harm them. No one knows the long term effects of the vaccine.
Two French doctors discussed on live television how a new COVID-19 vaccine under development should be first tested in Africa, "where there are no masks, no treatment, nor intensive care." (Kossoff, 2020)
One of them, Jean-Paul Mira, even compared Africans to prostitutes who were the focus of past AIDS studies. "We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves," he said (Kossoff, 2020)
Growing up in Zimbabwe, Africa, I have witnessed many trials of medications and vaccines for HIV, oral contraceptives, to name a few. Many African countries are breeding grounds for big western pharmaceuticals, yet in the long run do not benefit from the proceeds. Many of the research participants do not consent and are not even aware of what is being given due to health illiteracy, which is a human right violation.
I have living relatives that have suffered the effects of such trials. I have an aunt who was given an oral contraceptive that turned out to be fatal. We only found out 10 years later when she was trying to have children. Another relative was given trials of polio vaccine which also resulted in harm. Women’s reproductive health is being violated, the old, poor and frail succumb to these big companies, even children are not exempt. African leaders are poor and greedy, they are so selfish that they sacrifice their people in exchange of cuff links, and a packet of sugar, what a disgrace!
Violation of Human Rights
Apartheid in South Africa and colonizers of African countries were characterized by systematic violation of human rights of the Black population (Barsdorf & Wassenaar, 2005). Succeeding ruling institutions perpetuated and enforced such violations (Barsdorf & Wassenaar, 2005). Consequently, Black South Africans may be apprehensive of scientific research in which the Black population are targeted as participants, regardless of the reason for them being selected. In America, Blacks are targeted as well due to poverty and low health literacy levels.
Increasingly, people worry that undue inducements for research participants in developing countries compromise the voluntariness necessary for informed consent (Emanuel, Currie, & Herman, 2005). In general, these research participants are poor, poorly educated, with access to few health-care services. They are often powerless, especially compared with pharmaceutical companies and researchers from developed countries.
What makes Africa Vulnerable
What makes individuals, groups, or even entire countries vulnerable? And why is vulnerability a concern in bioethics? A simple answer to both questions is that vulnerable individuals and groups are subject to exploitation, and exploitation is morally wrong. Vulnerable individuals can be harmed. African governments have to protect their people by raising awareness of exploitation and efforts to enhance the ability to protect their citizens from exploitation at the hands of powerful sponsors of research and not be enticed by expensive gifts.
James Marion Sims performed gynecological exams on enslaved black women and their children because he thought black women were less intelligent than their white counterparts (Sartin, 2004). The Tuskegee's black men were infected with syphilis without their knowledge (Reverby, 2012). Some people might say, why are you bringing this up, it was done long ago. But my point is to show that there is trend since slavery in using poor black people for research, many people were harmed, in case of good results, not compensated accordingly.
There is a trend of exploitation, and it is still taking place in America and poor African countries in 2020. Now that we can discuss racism, bigotry, oppression lets involve pharmaceutical companies. As nurses, we cannot participate in such activities, and it is our duty to educate and inform people in vulnerable populations about informed consent and participation in human trials. I am glad I can write about this and enlighten everyone without fear of retribution or being told by white people that racism is not real and it is an imaginary situation in black man/woman’s head. It's real, people, I am black and beautiful and a proud African .
When pharmaceuticals see poor black people, they see gold, free guinea pigs for research!
#Black Lives Matter - around the world. Stop medical exploitation on blacks!