Experimentation vs. Exploitation: Is Liberia A Garbage Garage?

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The rights of our people are again violated and trampled upon through a well organized scheme of international conspiracy. The high rate of illiteracy, ignorance, and gullibility in our society has been taken advantage of once more. We know what is unfolding behind the scenes. Our people have been overlooked and humiliated again due to acute deprivation and destitution. Poverty has made them choiceless, defenseless, helpless and powerless. Nothing seems more important to them right now other than survival, even if their livelihood is endangered. Hardship is leading them into an abyss of misery and mediocrity.    

After almost two centuries of nationhood, Liberia still remains a land of vulnerability and susceptibility. After more than sixteen decades of sovereignty, its citizens are exposed to visible dangers and huge risks. This West African Country is becoming a trash can and garbage ground for foreign experimentation and exploitation. I wonder sometimes whether Liberia is really Africa’s first Independent State. It is disappointing and disastrous to be growing in age and declining in socio-economic strength especially at a time when small countries like Namibia, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, etc. are marching forward.

When Africans did not have any option to shape their own destiny, Liberia became a beacon of freedom and liberty. The self-determination of Liberians was a source of continental courage, motivation, and inspiration for most Africans who were undergoing unjust treatments as a result of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism. Our country was seen as a shining star during its formative era of autonomy. It is no longer the case now as our nation has become a laughingstock in West Africa and beyond. Judging from prevailing indicators, Liberia is now a global ‘Recycle Bin’ where waste products are sent for storage and usage.

It is worth knowing that many Sovereign States in Africa got their independence from their colonial masters as a result of Liberia’s lustrous legacy. Our nation and its citizenry are going through perilous times especially when other countries are making mammoth progress in terms of socio-economic and political development. Why must it always be Liberia? The myriad of undue and inhumane treatments against Liberians by foreigners is alarming and if we fail to resist these noticeable injustices, we stand to endanger our collective destiny as a nation and people.  

Liberia today is the leading transit point for drug trafficking and all forms of human abuses in Africa. The country’s renewable and non-renewable resources are heavily exploited by foreign investment companies without genuine impact made to eradicate poverty, ignorance and disease. Our nation has become a dumpsite of expired goods. Some of our citizens are dying every day as a result of substandard drugs and food brought from abroad. Is it wrong to become a nation of hospitality, always willing to promote mutual partnership through trade and commerce? Many of our foreign partners are misusing our mutual alliance and taking advantage of our current economic limitation to massively exploit us. This cruel act is unfair and does not conform to minimum international standards of protecting human rights and dignity.

The recent launch of two Ebola trial vaccines in Liberia has raised sharp concerns about the safety and protection of Liberians. There are many questions than answers about these two vaccines especially during a time when panic and fear are invading our society. On Monday, February 02, 2015, Researchers and Scientists under the banner Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines (PREVAIL) began a trial of experimental Ebola vaccines at the Redemption Hospital in New Town.

Our optimism to expel Ebola from the country is high, but this must not be used as an alibi to institute unwarranted approach of conducting ill-procedural clinical trial or experimentation in Liberia. We are totally against any clinical trial that tends to risk the livelihood of our people in return for cash. The real motive behind this exercise needs to be made known because there are still conflicting explanations about these two vaccines. 

However, these are critical and alarming concerns of public interest that PREVAIL must address in a more accurate and adequate manner:

  1. Why were these two vaccines launched in Liberia even though Sierra Leone and Guinea are the current hotspots for Ebola transmission?
  2. Why PREVAIL did not follow WHO Standard Operating Procedures for conducting clinical trial vaccines or experimentation?
  3. Why must Liberia be the primary target when it currently has few Ebola cases remaining?
  4. Why is PREVAIL administering two shots of syringes or doses at once on a single volunteer?
  5. What medical guarantee or insurance do participants or volunteers of these vaccines have?
  6. Before launching these trial vaccines on Monday, why didn’t PREVAIL conduct a nationwide awareness and sensitization exercise to fully educate citizens about the merits and demerits of these trial vaccines?
  7. What is the real motive or rational for providing compensation package ($40USD) for volunteers?
  8. Did the Liberian government along with the trial vaccine team conduct joint investigation and verification about the safety and effects of these vaccines before launching them?
  9. Why must each of the vaccines contain a small portion of the Ebola virus? How safe is this?
  10. According to researchers, the vaccines may cause side effects such as pain, redness, fever, headaches, mouth sores, tiredness, muscle and joint pain, and loss of appetite. Who takes full medical responsibility for these potential side effects?
  11.  Does PREVAIL have pre and post counseling mechanisms in place to mitigate psychological imbalances?
  12.  Has the government of Liberia established the safety and efficacy of these vaccines? If yes, where and how? If no, why?
  13. The Partnership for Research on Ebola Vaccines (PREVAIL) is selecting healthy volunteers above 18 years old who have no previous history of Ebola infection. Why is PREVAIL not focusing on Ebola survivors?
  14. Why were these vaccines not tested first in Canada and Great Britain since they are the key manufacturers?  
  15. What is the statistical significance of experimenting Ebola trial vaccines in Liberia since researchers have said the trial may not have the statistical power needed to show whether the shots work?
  16. What does Liberia stand to benefit if this ongoing clinical trial and experimentation of these two Ebola vaccines become successful?

Even though we appreciate the hard work of scientists and researchers to help put an end to this fatal epidemic in Liberia and West Africa, our ultimate concern is the safety and protection of our people. A single life lost during this process of experimentation can never be restored even by the greatest scientist or researcher currently on earth.

The same procedures and methods researchers and scientists usually follow in the USA, Canada, Great Britain, Germany, and other advanced countries to administer trial vaccines must be given due consideration as well in Liberia. Scientists cannot practice medical due diligence in developed nations and go contrary to those same proficient practices in underdeveloped countries.  This unjust act is equivalent to monumental hypocrisy and global deception.

The collaboration of countries around the world must be based on mutual fairness and justice. Do not exploit us because you are giving us aids and grants! Our lives are equally important like yours. Therefore, $40USD must not be a reward for risking our survival and safety. Fifty-six million United States Dollars ($US56m) cannot even be a cash prize for a single life. Discrimination, marginalization, and exploitation are yet too far from coming to an end even though there are universal laws prohibiting these anti-social deeds. 

Let it be clearly known to all of our people that these two trial vaccines are risky with life-threatening effects.  It is the primary duty of PREVAIL to inform Liberians about the disadvantages of these vaccines.  It is the right of our people to know. The cAd3-EBOZ, which was co-developed by NIAID scientists and GlaxoSmithKline in Great Britain, uses a chimpanzee-derived cold virus to deliver Ebola virus genetic material from the Zaire strain of virus causing the outbreak in Liberia. The other trial vaccine, VSV-ZEBOV, which was developed by the Public Health Agency of Canada and licensed to NewLink Genetics Corp., employs vesicular stomatitis virus, an animal virus that primarily affects cattle, to carry an Ebola virus gene segment.

Trial vaccines are not administered in America, Britain, Canada or any developed country without thorough medical investigation, evaluation, and authorization. For food and drugs including trial vaccines to be consumed by citizens of America and other countries, it must be duly approved by the Food and Drug Administration. The Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research is the branch of the FDA responsible for ensuring the safety and efficacy of biological therapeutic agents. These include blood and blood products, vaccines, allergenics, cell and tissue-based products, and gene therapy products.

Before trial vaccines are administered in any country, researchers or scientists must satisfy all legitimate requirements or procedures. Unfortunately, this did not happen in the case of Liberia. This is why there are more disbeliefs, doubts, and suspicions about these two ebola trial vaccines. Our friends from across the Atlantic Ocean need to understand that Liberia is not a garbage garage.  Liberia as a sovereign nation is not a wasteland where anyone does anything without following appropriate measures and principles. We hope this will be the end of exploitation and ill-procedural experimentation in Liberia. It is time to respect the rights of all human beings regardless of socio-economic status. Liberians deserve maximum safety and security like all creatures on earth. We are not semi-creatures neither are we secondary beings!

In order to avert further exploitations in Liberia, I recommend that acts of legislation be passed to establish the following agencies or departments of government:

  1. Food and Drug Agency
  2. Center for Biologics Evaluation and Research
  3. Center for Drugs Evaluation and Research
  4. Center for Food Safety and Nutrition

I am confident that if these measures are instituted, it will certainly lead to promoting a safe, healthy, and secured Liberia where the livelihood of citizens will no longer be endangered.

Above all interests, Liberia is Supreme.

About The Author: Martin K. N. Kollie is a Liberian youth activist, student leader, an emerging economist, and a young writer.  He is currently a student at the University of Liberia reading Economics and a member of the Student Unification Party (SUP).  His passion is to ensure a new Liberia of socio-economic equality and justice for ALL. He can be reached at: [email protected]

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