World Health Organization and UNICEF officials are strongly pushing back against claims that a tetanus vaccine program offered to Kenyan women is a covert population-control scheme.
The reason Kenyan women of reproductive age are a target for the three-dose tetanus vaccine campaign is because “most tetanus cases in Kenya are among newborns” and hundreds of babies die from it each year, officials with WHO and UNICEF said in a statement released this week.
Claims that the tetanus vaccine program is contaminated with the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone are “not backed up by evidence,” wrote Dr. Custodia Mandlhate, WHO’s representative in Kenya, and Dr. Pirkko Heinonen, UNICEF’s acting representative in Kenya.
“WHO and UNICEF confirm that the vaccines are safe, and are procured from a pre-qualified manufacturer,” they said.
However, in a “Friday Fax” of the Center for Family & Human Rights (C-Fam), a Catholic worker active in maternal health issues in Africa said the scandal is not likely to die down until more independent testing is done.
“Everybody is denying everything and accusing everybody,” Dr. Robert Walley, founder of MaterCare International, told Stefano Gennarini at C-Fam.
Mr. Gennarini also posted an exclusive interview with James Elder, UNICEF spokesman for Africa, who explained that Kenyan women, aged 15 to 49, were being urged to take three doses of a particular tetanus shot so that they and their newborns can be protected from illness for several years — and especially during births in “unhygienic” conditions.
When asked if WHO and UNICEF were “experimenting with hCG vaccines in Kenya,” Mr. Elder flatly said: “No.”
On Nov. 6, Catholic bishops in Kenya urged women to avoid the three-dose tetanus vaccine campaign, saying four independent tests of the vaccine found traces of “beta-hCG.”
Normally, hCG establishes and maintains a pregnancy. But the bishops and the Kenya Catholic Doctors Association said that the kind of hCG hormone found in the vaccines has been associated with population-control efforts, because it can cause miscarriages and infertility in women.
The Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops is urging women to get the “regular,” one-shot tetanus vaccines instead.