A Catholic health care group says tetanus vaccines used in Kenya are not secretly laced with anti-pregnancy hormones, but it is urging the government and public health officials to conduct more tests to confirm it.
The previous lab results that appeared to show evidence of the human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) hormone in Kenya’s tetanus vaccines were “false positives,” said leaders of MaterCare International, a respected health organization that works in Africa.
Kenyan authorities are urged to work with the World Health Organization to “expeditiously test samples supervised by both parties in independent, reputable and competent laboratories,” Dr. Robert Walley and other MaterCare leaders said in a statement Friday.
“Once the absence of hCG is unequivocally confirmed,” a statement and public campaign about the shots can be undertaken in Kenya, the doctors said.
The retesting of these vaccines “needs to be done,” Dr. Donna Harrison, executive director of the American Association of Pro-Life Obstetricians and Gynecologists, said Monday.
The problems in Kenya relate to issues of “communication and trust,” Dr. Harrison said. When people have questions or concerns about medical treatments they are being proffered, “those have to be addressed,” she said.
The tetanus vaccine scandal stemmed from a campaign to give three tetanus shots over several months only to Kenyan women of childbearing age, especially those who live in poor and rural areas.
Public health officials said the three-shot program is intended to protect newborns and new mothers from contracting deadly tetanus infections.
But the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops became alarmed about the unusual program — typically, people get a single tetanus shot every five or 10 years — and had some shots tested privately.
The results, which appeared to show traces of hCG, prompted the bishops to issue a warning Nov. 6 asking Kenyan women not to take the shots because “we are convinced that it is indeed a disguised population control program.”
WHO and UNICEF officials tried to squelch the controversy, but even the Kenya National Union of Nurses sided with the bishops, according to AllAfrica Global Media.
WHO did not give an immediate update about the issue Monday.
The global health agency lists Kenya as one of 24 countries where tetanus remains “a major public health problem” and a focus of WHO’s Maternal and Newborn Tetanus elimination efforts.