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Kenyan bishops call for no more tetanus vaccines until further tests

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi signed the bishops' statement (CNS)

Kenya’s bishops have insisted that “no further mass tetanus vaccination campaigns” should take place in the country until the “vaccines have been appropriately tested and proven to be safe.”

The January 14 statement signed by all of the bishops followed a recent report that one-third of the vials of the tetanus vaccine tested contained a hormone linked to birth control. At the direction of the bishops, the vials were tested at five different laboratories in Kenya.

The government rejected the results, citing poor methodology. The Ministry of Health said it tested 10 vials and found them to be free of the hormone.

In their statement, the bishops said the Catholic Church had been at the forefront of promoting an investigation into these vaccines and that initial requests by Church officials to test the vaccines were rejected by the country’s health ministry.

In November, the bishops claimed that 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 bishops said they suspected the vaccine contained beta human chorionic gonadotropin, or beta hCG, which prevents women from becoming pregnant. In November, a joint committee formed of Church leaders, medical doctors, and the parliamentary Committee on Health agreed to test samples of the vaccine at laboratories around the world.

Preliminary test results, released on January 10, showed that three of the nine vials of the tetanus vaccine contained beta hCG. The others tested negative.

The results were included in a preliminary executive summary of the report of the joint Kenya Catholic Conference of Bishops and Kenyan Ministry of Health, along with a committee of experts on tetanus vaccine testing.

At the height of the issue, the Kenyan bishops questioned why the national immunisation campaign was aimed at women between the ages of 14-59 and also why the government was conducting this campaign when the bishops were not aware of a nationwide tetanus crisis.

Full text of the bishops’ statement:

STATEMENT BY THE KENYA CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS ON MASS TETANUS VACCINATION CAMPAIGN CARRIED OUT IN KENYA IN MARCH AND OCTOBER 2014 [issued on 14th January 2015]

1. Before the March and October 2014 mass tetanus vaccination campaign, the Catholic Church raised concerns about the safety of the vaccine that was being used. This was informed by what had happened in Mexico, Nicaragua and Philippines where WHO/UNICEF had conducted similar campaigns using tetanus toxoid impregnated with beta HCG that causes production of antibodies against the natural HCG resulting in permanent infertility.

2. The mass tetanus immunization campaigns in Kenya in March and October 2014 were also sponsored by WHO and UNICEF.

3. The Catholic Church requested the Ministry of Health that the vaccines be tested before use to ensure they were safe.

4. These requests were rejected by the Ministry of Health.

5. Subsequently, the Catholic Church independently sampled nine vaccine vials from the two campaigns with diffi culty.

6. Six of these vials were tested in fi ve different laboratories here in Kenya. One third of the vials (3/9) were found to be laced with beta HCG.

7. The ministry rejected these results citing poor methodology.

8. The Parliamentary Health Committee summoned the Ministry of Health top leadership who said they had tested the vaccines used during the mass vaccination campaign and found them safe.

9. This parliamentary committee also called the Catholic Church which reported to them that out of the nine vaccine vials sampled, three were found to be laced with beta HCG.

10. Faced with these conflicting reports, supposedly from the same laboratories, the Parliamentary Health Committee asked that a joint committee of experts from the Ministry of Health and the Catholic Church be formed.

11. The work of the joint committee was to test the vials the Catholic Church and the Ministry of Health had earlier sampled and tested. The testing was to be done in a mutually selected laboratory and the results be communicated to Kenyans.

12. When the joint MoH/KCCB committee convened, the Catholic Church brought the nine vials in their custody; seven of them opened during prior testing and two unopened.

13. To the shock of the joint committee, the Ministry of Health did not have prior sampled vials that it had claimed to have tested. They did not also have laboratory results from such prior testing. It is not a wonder therefore that all their vials were closed.

14. The nine vials from the Catholic Church were tested by the joint KCCB/MOH committee of experts using the most modern and sophisticated method called High Performance Liquid Chromatography (HPLC)

15. Th0ree of the nine vials tested were found to be laced with beta HCG.

16. Ten vials presented by the Ministry of Health from its vaccine stores were also tested and found to be free of beta HCG. These results were completed by the testing laboratory on 4th January 2015.

17. On 5th and 6th January 2015, the testing laboratory persistently called the joint KCCB/MOH committee of experts wanting to present the results but the Ministry of Health showed great resistance to receiving these results.

18. It was only on 8thJanuary 2015 after the KCCB chairman threatened to withdraw from the joint committee that the Ministry of Health requested for an extra day. On the same day, the Ministry of Health submitted 40 vials to the laboratory from their vaccine stores for testing, without consulting or seeking the approval of the joint KCCB/MOH committee. The results of these 40 vials were loaded onto the previously completed results of 19 vials from the joint committee.

19. This was aimed at creating a dilution and bias of the 3 vials that were positive out of 9.

· In view of these facts, we the Catholic Bishops of Kenya, wish to reiterate that the vaccines used for the mass tetanus vaccination campaigns in March and October 2014 contained some vials laced with beta HCG.

· It is worth noting that only the Catholic Church had collected samples during the actual March and October 2014 tetanus vaccination campaigns.

· We insist that no further mass tetanus vaccination campaigns should be undertaken in Kenya before the vaccines have been appropriately tested and proven to be safe.

Signed:
His Eminence, John Cardinal Njue, Chairman, Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops, Rt. Rev. Philip Anyolo Vice Chairman (KCCB, Homa Bay), Most Rev. Zacchaeus Okoth, Kisumu, Most Rev. Peter Kairo, Nyeri, Rt. Rev. Philip Sulumeti, Kakamega, Rt. Rev. Paul Darmanin, Garissa, Rt. Rev. Cornelius K. Arap Korir, Eldoret, Rt. Rev. Joseph Mairura Okemwa, Kisii, Rt. Rev. Alfred Rotich, Military Ordinariate, Rt. Rev. Maurice Crowley, Kitale, Rt. Rev. Norman Wambua King’oo, Bungoma, Rt. Rev. Peter Kihara, IMC, Marsabit, Rt. Rev. David Kamau Ng’ang’a – Aux. Bishop Nairobi, Rt. Rev. Anthony Ireri Mukobo, IMC, Isiolo Vicariate, Rt. Rev. Virgilio Pante, Maralal, Rt. Rev. Salesius Mugambi, Meru, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Okombo, Kericho, Rt. Rev. Martin Kivuva Musonde, Machakos, Archbishop elect Mombasa, Rt. Rev. Anthony Muheria, Kitui, Rt. Rev. James Maria Wainaina, Muranga, Rt. Rev. Paul Kariuki Njiru, Embu, Rt. Rev. Maurice Muhatia Makumba, Nakuru, Rt. Rev. Dominic Kimengich, Lodwar, Rt. Rev. Emmanuel Barbara, Malindi, Apostolic Administrator Mombasa,Rt. Rev. Joseph Mbatia, Nyahururu, Rt. Rev. John Oballa Owaa, Ngong, Rt. Rev. Joseph Allesandro, Co-adjutor Garrisa, Rt. Rev. Joseph Obanyi Sagwe, Bishop Elect Kakamega