Opinion | African nations are not lab rats for the Western world

Illustration by Maddy De Michele

Gabriel Thomas, Contributing Writer

Times have changed drastically over the past month. Usually, when we get sick we schedule a doctor’s appointment immediately or get rushed to the emergency room to receive treatment. Now, we all fear even the idea of the ER. 

COVID-19  made its grand debut in China late last year. With absolutely no known cure or treatment for the illness, it has caused an obscene amount of chaos and death. The illness has spread to almost every single nation in the world, never discriminating. 

It has rampaged through our nation here. The United States was completely clueless to the impact this deadly virus would have on its citizens. With the highest infection rate in the world, the U.S. has nearly 750,00 confirmed cases, and that number is still rising.

While many countries are suffering the same fate as the U.S., according to The World Health Organization, African nations have fewer cases than most other countries. This is a major, albeit temporary, blessing due to the unfortunate fact that African nations are wildly more unprepared for the virus than the Western world. They lack many necessities such as ventilators and an abundance of available doctors.

While people are being infected and dying at a terrifying rate due to COVID- 19, the virus still has no cure. As the U.S. enters its second month of stay-at-home orders and halting of all normal life, the treatment is still MIA. That being said, doctors and health care professionals from all over the world are searching for a cure.

To two doctors in France, the solution lies in Africa. No, I don’t mean African resources, I mean African people. These two French doctors went on TV and suggested testing coronavirus vaccines on people in Africa.

Many black people feel that the white population sees us as animals. Thanks to these two doctors, that claim has turned into fact. Ironically, before treatment for an illness is approved, it is usually tested on animals to make sure it is safe for the human body. Typically, health care professionals and doctors use mammals such as monkeys, dogs and rabbits to test vaccines. 

Today, a few doctors want to use the poor people of Africa. I mean, why waste innocent animals when you can just waste African lives? Apparently, to scientists and doctors, African people aren’t humans. It disgusts me. 

Now, I’m not saying killing animals is the most humane way to test vaccines either, but the precious lives of human beings should not be bargained because the Western world finds no use for them. It breaks my heart terribly that, historically, the Western world has seen Africa as nothing more than property, resources and as a source for experimentation. 

This is not the first time, nor the last time Western scientists and doctors will view African civilians as their lab rats. In Zimbabwe in 1955, a Scottish anesthesiologist injected many Zimbabweans with a lethal amount of morphine as a test. Consequently, he was charged with the murder of two infant babies. 

Similar horror stories exist, such as one in 2000 in South Africa. A white cancer researcher conducted medical research on black breast-cancer patients and infected them with high doses of chemotherapy. He was fired. 

It’s funny that this racism and neglect the Western world has toward Africa is because of its own doing. Africa is largely less developed simply because the Western world made sure of it. They conquered, colonized and enslaved its people and its land. 

African people were not put on this Earth to be lab rats. They aren’t here to be tested on for a vaccine that will become too expensive for them to purchase anyways. Comments such as the one made by these French doctors are beyond offensive and bigoted. What they’re basically saying is: It’s okay to kill these civilians because they’re dying anyways. Since these poorer people don’t have the access to healthcare and resources that the Western world.

Instead of scientists collaborating with organizations, hospitals and public figures to provide Africa with the proper materials people need to stay safe, they want to risk their lives with a vaccine that we don’t know works yet. As far as we know, African nations have been fortunate enough to not suffer the same amount of cases that the Western world has. However, they don’t have a wide array of testing, so let’s not flood them with more cases they cannot test.

The people of Africa don’t deserve this nonchalant treatment from scientists or health care professionals. We need a cure, but it should not, and will not, come at the cost of civilians in Africa.

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