From all the drama that has been happening in parliament (stemming from Professor Alex Dodoo describing a parliamentarian as ignorant) to the ongoing debate as to whether the Ebola vaccine trial should be allowed in Ghana, I dare say that it has been an interesting month of controversy surrounding the Ebola vaccine trial which is yet to be conducted in Ghana.
As a student of medicine, when I first heard about this exercise which was to be carried out in the Volta Region, just like any well-meaning Ghanaian, I had my own reservations about this.
I am not against the idea of a trial at all but I believe that it is sometimes necessary to be skeptical about certain things and it is about time people put an end to that attitude of being ready to swallow everything hook, line and sinker.
Well, I cannot deny that I have benefitted greatly from vaccination against the six killer diseases in Africa. Let’s face it. If this trial goes well, then we may not have to suffer of the fate of over 10,000 who died from the most dangerous viral infection in recent times.
A vaccine is a visa for safety.
Vaccination has saved a lot of lives as much as it has ruined many. If you are reading this, it’s likely,a vaccine against polio or one of those killer diseases is partly responsible.
For instance, Edward Jenner’s vaccination exercise has saved millions of babies from the cowpox disease. He has widely contributed to the world of immunization through his cowpox inoculation trial. This also led to prove further that immunity against cowpox also protects an individual from small pox as well.
Today, the vaccine that Edward Jenner developed is being used around the world and has saved a lot of lives.
Nobody knows John Salk . Do you?
Well, he is the name behind the first ever successful polio vaccine and was being used around the world to cure poliomyelitis. This was done in 1952 by using HeLa cells and administered by injecting the dead poliovirus into the body. In 1957, human trials using the oral vaccine developed by Albert Sabin began. These two vaccines have reduced the rate of mortality due to poliomyelitis thus from 350,000 cases in 1998 to 223 cases in 2012 , according to statistics by the World Health Organization.
The first effective tetanus vaccine was found in 1924 by treating the tetanus toxin with formaldehyde and injecting it into human volunteers. This vaccine, like that of polio, became very useful and prevented a lot of deaths as well.
In some places, however, vaccines are thought to have done more harm than good and sometimes may not work as effectively as they should. Are you still in doubt?
Well, I chanced upon some rather quite interesting information on vactruth.com where I found out that there have been several cases where vaccination exercises have failed. I will provide you with five of these startling revelations.
In 2009, two doctors were found to have contracted measles after being vaccinated. As if that was not enough, there was a major measles outbreak in Quebec which affected 1,363 people. It was found out that about 99% of the population had been vaccinated.
There was another outbreak of measles but this occurred in Illinois among High School students. There were twenty-one cases of measles recorded ; 16 were vaccinated, 4 were unvaccinated preschool children and 1 was a vaccinated college students. This event led to a conclusion that measles can be transmitted within a school population with 100% immunization level. If this can happen with measles, then we must as well get ready for any case of ebola just in case it occurs.
Another incident occurred in Lithuania where 53 children showed signs of pertussis out of the same 53 children who were vaccinated against the disease. This occurred in 2001. Highly ineffective and disappointing result, isn’t it? Well, you haven’t seen the last of vaccine trial failures.
There was an outbreak of chickenpox in 2006 after the varicella vaccine was suggested to students. After the admission period, there were 84 cases of chickenpox even though there was a 97% vaccine coverage. A similar vaccine coverage was recorded in 2010 among the Jewish Communities living in the United States but this time, it was a case of a failed mumps vaccine.
This is not the only site that seems to have lost hope in the exercise called vaccination. I also found out (online) from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation that Tuberculosis vaccines do not offer full protection for newborn babies and children. These vaccines also do not prevent pulmonary Tuberculosis in adults.
Also, the NCBI bookshelf reveals that in some areas of Europe and North America, the difference between vaccinated sections and those that did not receive the vaccines were not too far apart in terms of their Tuberculosis declined rates. Clearly, this goes on to prove that 100% potency of a vaccine trial cannot be assured. Anything could go wrong with the ebola vaccine trial just like all these cases that have been stated.
As Ghanaians, I think it is very relevant to analyze the consequences of this vaccine trial critically by taking everything these ‘promoters’ say with a pinch of salt even when we are told that the first phase of the trial is harmless. I believe more education must be done and more questions must be answered in a time like this.
Secondly, in as much as the trial would bring a lot of money to our IMF bailed-out country, I believe that we must look at the issue of equality and fairness with regard to the compensation being given to other countries across the world. Yes, the Americans have injected themselves but did they do it for Ghc200 and a cell phone only? Sorry to disappoint but it has been reported that a volunteer in the United States is to receive $1,700 as a reward or compensation for all the inconveniences caused due to this exercise. Won’t the people of the Volta Region also experience some inconveniences as well? Then why are they being given this meager sum of money as compensation and a cell phone to enhance communication in case they experience any symptom after the shots?
In conclusion, the Ebola vaccine trial is a great idea but in a country where a number of people died of common cholera due to our inability to keep our environment clean, do you still think that Ghana is ready for this particular trial?