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False claim: Antonio Guterres announces “first” coronavirus vaccine trial in Africa

Posts on social media make the claim that United Nations chief Antonio Guterres has announced that the first “technical trial” for a COVID-19 vaccine will begin in Africa ( here ).

Reuters was unable to find any remarks by Guterres to support this claim.

On March 28, Guterres told Radio France Internationale (RFI) he fears “millions and millions” of coronavirus cases in Africa, where younger people will not be spared. He called on wealthy countries to help the developing world, for their own sake. ( here )

In the same interview Guterres stated: “Ninety percent of the cases are in the G20 countries which hold 80 percent of the global economy. They shouldn’t be working alone, each in their corner, but in a coordinated manner to find treatments and vaccines to put at the world’s disposal.”

“As the virus mutates, all the investment we are putting into vaccines will be for nothing because the virus will then travel from the South back to the North,” Guterres added. “So it is in the interest of countries in the North to help the South.”

SUGGESTION OF VACCINE TRIAL IN AFRICA SPARKS CONTROVERSY

The claim on social media comes amid a racism row in France, over two doctors’ suggestion that a COVID-19 trial using the BCG vaccine for tuberculosis, should first be tested on Africans.

During an April 1 television broadcast, Jean-Paul Mira - head of intensive care at the Cochin hospital in Paris - asked: “If I can be provocative, should we not do this study in Africa where there are no masks, treatment, or intensive care, a little bit like it’s done, by the way, for certain AIDS studies or with prostitutes?” ( here ) The question is visible here .

Camille Locht, the research director from France’s Inserm, responded: “You are right. And by the way, we are in the process of thinking in parallel about a study in Africa ... That doesn’t prevent us, in parallel, from also thinking about a study in Europe and in Australia.”

In a statement on April 3, Mira’s employer, the Paris network of hospitals, quoted Mira as saying: “I want to present all my apologies to those who were hurt, shocked and felt insulted by the remarks that I clumsily expressed on LCI this week.”

Inserm said on Twitter that the video of the exchange was being misinterpreted, without elaborating, and noted that the vaccine is only being trialled in Europe and Australia at present ( here ).

The head of the World Health Organization (WHO) has criticised the remarks. Director General Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said: "Africa can't and won't be a testing ground for any vaccine" ( here ).

TESTING FOR CORONAVIRUS VACCINE

On April 2, Australia’s national science agency said that it had commenced the first stage of testing for potential vaccines for COVID-19, as it joins a global race to halt the pandemic ( here ).

Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute has also launched a federally sponsored clinical trial in the U.S.( here ).

There is still no vaccine on the market against the novel coronavirus, or SARS-CoV-2, that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19 ( here ).

As of April 7, overa million people have been infected and more than67,000 have died ( here ).

VERDICT

False: Antonio Guterres, Secretary-General of the United Nations, did not announce a coronavirus vaccine trial in Africa.

This article was produced by the Reuters Fact Check team. Read more about our fact checking work here .

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