A troubling report now says scientists at prestigious Oxford University blithely ignored data from a tuberculosis vaccine trial in primates and pushed full steam ahead with an inoculation test program, injecting hundreds of babies and young children in Africa — despite the shot seeming to have caused the monkeys to “die rather rapidly.”
Oxford Professor Peter Beverley told the BBC’s File on Four it “seemed a little bit strange” the majority of the 18 primates receiving the trial of the new tuberculosis injection had to be euthanized shortly after the injection — if they survived, at all.
“Certainly here in this experiment, there is no evidence whatsoever that this is an effective booster vaccine,” Beverley asserted.
“It certainly looks, when you look at the rate at which these animals died, that the MVA85A boosted group and the control untreated group all died rather rapidly,” he added.
“Trials on monkeys saw all of them infected with TB,” The Independent reports. “However, one group was given the widely used Bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) jab, the second as given no immunisation and a third was given BCG plus new vaccine.
“The trial had started 10 months before a funding application was made for the clinical trial on over 2,800 babies near Cape Town. Almost half of the infants taking part were given the new vaccine.
“By that time, of the six monkeys who received only the BCG injection, just two died, while five out of six of those that received the BCG jab and the new booster vaccine together had to be put down.”
Families of the 1,399 children who did in fact receive the inoculation test, were told of its safety and efficacy in both animal and human subjects — and were compensated around £10 (roughly $13) for participating.
Though indispensable, the professor insists the information pertaining to the primate deaths did not make into the hands of South African regulators prior to the start of the trial — a direct contradiction of the position maintained by Oxford, which also referenced prior clearance of the inoculation and safe testing in 424 people.
It was that test — and not the later, nearly concurrent, and highly lethal primate trial — which putatively informed Professor Helen McShane’s decision to perform the vaccine tests on humans.
But peculiarities indeed abound.
“Professor Jimmy Volmink, Dean of the Faculty of Medicine and Health Sciences at Stellenbosch University, told The Telegraph the information sheet did not appear to reflect the evidence from the monkey study, which was ‘not right.’
“He said people affected by tuberculosis were often poor and ‘not very highly educated,’ making it particularly important that they were given ‘clear, understandable information.’”
Scientists found an excessive concentration of tuberculosis bacteria in the vaccine caused the primate fatalities; but, as the Independent paraphrased Public Health England, “it was not a pre-clinical trial to support the progression of the vaccine into humans, but instead a separate trial that would inform future animal tests, the results were not” relevant.
An investigation into the allegations made by Professor Beverley found no wrongdoing — but concluded it “would have been good practice for the potentially adverse reaction observed in the monkey experiment to be reported to the authorities in a more timely fashion.”
According to the journal Science Translational Medicine as cited by the Telegraph, the errant inoculation proved to be safe for the 1,399 babies who received it — perhaps as a bit of justice against the hapless humans responsible for their potential jeopardy in the first place.
(Featured image: Pixabay, stock image)