Kenya’s Catholic bishops are holding firm in urging people to avoid receiving a tetanus vaccine being administered under a nationwide campaign because they say it contains a hormone linked to birth control.
A joint committee that includes representatives of the bishops and the Kenyan Ministry of Health met for the first time November 19 to discuss Catholic concerns about the vaccine, which was found to have beta human chorionic gonadotropin, which prevents women from becoming pregnant.
The joint committee was instituted November 11 at a meeting between Church leaders, including some medical doctors, and the parliamentary Committee on Health.
Dr Stephen Karanja, the chairman of the Catholic Doctors’ Association who attended the November 19 meeting, told Catholic News Service afterwards that the committee agreed to test samples of the vaccine at laboratories around the world.
The parties agreed to isolate three samples for testing, Karanja said.
“All of these (labs) will be privately owned, and the Kenyan government-owned KEMRI (Kenyan Medical Research Institute), which the Ministry of Health had earlier on recommended for the testing of the samples from the two parties, is not one of them,” Karanja said.
The doctor said no time frame is set for the testing.
In a November 6 statement, the bishops charged the vaccine, targeted to women of child-bearing age and not to men, was being administered in a campaign sponsored by the World Health Organisation and UNICEF that had been guarded by secrecy and deception.
The hormone, known as beta hCG, was discovered in vaccine samples that representatives of the bishops obtained and sent for testing to unrelated government and private labs between March and October.
The bishops said the test results were given to government health officials in mid-October.
The bishops accused the government of a “deliberate attempt to distort the truth and mislead 42 million Kenyans” after the Ministry of Health said in a report to the parliamentary Committee on Health November 4 that the vaccine was free of the beta hCG hormone.
“We are shocked at the level of dishonesty and casual manner in which such a serious issue is being handled by the government,” the bishops said.
“We are dismayed by attempts to intimidate and blackmail medical professionals who have corroborated information about the vaccine, with threats of disciplinary action. We commend and support all professionals who have stood by the truth,” they continued.
The vaccine has been linked to what the bishops described as “population control” when it was administered in other countries. They said the vaccine has been linked to infertility and miscarriages.
A 1993 report from the US National Institutes of Health said that beta hCG prevented “women of proven fertility leading an active sexual life” from becoming pregnant.