By Gatonye Gathura
Tens of thousands of women and girls who received the controversial tetanus vaccine in 2014 may now be tested for infertility.
A new international study wants the women tested to ascertain whether the vaccine has killed their ability to have children.
The study was published last month (27th October), days after opposition figure Raila Odinga had claimed to have evidence the vaccine had sterilized thousands of girls and women.
However the Cabinet Secretary for Health Dr Cleopa Mailu told Odinga the matter had been solved amicably between the government, United Nations and the complaining Catholic Church bishops.
Dr Mailu had said opposition leader was flogging up a dead horse long autopsied and buried.
But the new study appearing in the Open Access Library Journal by the University of Louisiana, US, University of British Columbia, Canada and most notably the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association suggests the CS might have spoken a bit too soon.
In the new study the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association is represented by Dr Stephen K Karanja and Dr Wahome Ngare who had acted for the the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB) throughout the 2014 controversy.
The study led by Prof John W Oller of the University of Louisiana concludes available data and evidence shows the women were deliberately exposed to an infertility causing agent embedded in the tetanus vaccine.
They accuse the World Health Organisation with connivance from Kenya’s Ministry of Health of sterilizing about 500,000 girls and women of child bearing age in the country.
“In our opinion, the WHO is the most plausible source of the infertility agent found in samples of tetanus vaccine used in Kenya in 2014,” says the study.
But to remove any iota of doubt the researchers want a sample of the vaccinated women be tested for the presence of the infertility agent called Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (hCG) in their bodies.
If a significant proportion of these women test positive for hCG, the experts say it would be possible to conclude they received it from the 2014 tetanus vaccine.
“Perhaps such a study may be underway in Kenya,” intimated the researchers saying if not it would be carried out soon enough.
An earlier study among women vaccinated with a similar tetanus vaccine in the Philippines in the 1990s, the study says had tested positive for the birth control hCG.
The controversy over the Tetanus Toxoid Vaccine in Kenya first came to the fore in March 2014 when at a service in Nyeri, John Cardinal Njue of the Catholic Church cautioned worshippers over the vaccine.
At the time the Ministry of Health and the United Nations were rolling out a mass tetanus vaccine campaign for girls and women across the country.
The Cardinal had questioned why the government was administering the vaccine only to women, arguing that there was “something fishy about it.”
“What is the rationale of a tetanus vaccine for women only?” asked the cardinal.
What followed was a drawn out confrontation leading to the formation of a joint committee to oversee the independent testing of the vaccine.
Results of the joint committee which the government had boycotted were released in January 2015 with the Church claiming the vaccine to have been contaminated with a birth control agent.
The government then promised to engage the Church quietly over the matter which seemed to have worked until September when Odinga brought up the matter.
That now it has been brought up by a team of well networked scholars with capacity to influence fertility testing of the affected women the matter may not go away soon.
The Ministry of Health and the UN have warned that such publicity could seriously hurt global effort for tetanus eradication.
Recently Kenya has been listed among the top four countries in the world with the highest number of deaths from tetanus in the last 25 years. In this, Kenya features alongside war torn countries of Somalia, South Sudan and Afghanistan.
See Journal: Oller, J.W., Shaw, C.A., Tomljenovic, L., Karanja, S.K., Ngare, W., Clement, F.M. and Pillette, J.R. (2017) HCG Found in WHO Tetanus Vaccine in Kenya Raises Concern in the Developing World. Open Access Library Journal , 4:e3937. https://doi.org/10.4236/oalib.1103937