Kenyan tetanus vaccine debacle a reminder of the global plight of women

In a vaccine debate to which the Washington Post referred as a “tense standoff between Catholic bishops and the Kenyan government,” important questions regarding the manner in which women’s health is approached on a global scale were raised. All eyes turned to Africa when the body of the Catholic Bishops of Kenya released a statement in early November indicating that the tetanus toxoid (TT) vaccines being administered in stages to Kenyan women of childbearing age were laced with a secret anti-fertility component that ultimately sterilizes women.  Since then, however, further testing has indicated that the test results obtained by the Kenyan bishops were “false positives,” and that the vaccines are free of infertility-causing agents.  What prompted the bishops to test the vaccine, and how did their tests produce false positive results?  And what does the Kenyan bishops’ interaction with the Kenyan government signify regarding the real “war on women?”

Months before they tested the vaccine themselves, the bishops had approached the Kenyan government (which works in conjunction with WHO/UNICEF in bringing vaccinations to Kenya) with concerns that the TT vaccines may be part of a population control program to which the women had not assented.  Despite initially stating that they would test the vaccines in response to the bishops’ query, the government refused to cooperate with the requests for transparency.  The bishops recall:

On March 26, 2014 and October 13, 2014, we met the Cabinet Secretary in charge of health and the Director of Medical Services among others and raised our concerns about the Vaccine and agreed to jointly test the vaccine.  However the ministry did not cooperate and the joint tests were not done.

This refusal catalyzed a flurry of investigations and conjectures that would have been rendered unnecessary had the government cooperated from the beginning.  Instead, the bishops had to test the vaccine themselves in an effort to ensure that the women receiving treatment were not being unknowingly sterilized.

Before delving into their concerns related to the TT vaccine, the bishops clearly stated that they do not oppose vaccination in general.  They preempted any potential conclusion that their concerns were spurred by mistrust of science or vaccination overall – to the probable dismay of conspiracy theorists across the world – by summarizing the position of the Catholic Church as a whole:

The Catholic Church is NOT opposed to regular vaccines administered in Kenya, both in our own Church health facilities and in public health institutions.

The Catholic Bishops of Kenya focused on red flags they recognized within the vaccination program:

We raised questions on whether the tetanus vaccine was linked to a population control program that has been reported in some countries, where a similar vaccine was laced with Beta- HCG (sic) hormone which causes infertility and multiple miscarriages in women.

Here the bishops affirm that their concerns were based on precedent.  These are serious points of contention.  At this point we must pause and evaluate the veracity of the concerns.  To which population control program are they referring?  And in which countries have similar vaccines purportedly been laced with hCG?  And does this alleged vaccine actually cause infertility?  Was the vaccine used as part of a population control program?

These are precisely the questions that mainstream reports have failed to investigate, opting instead to assume that they are false because they are so incredible.  Simply put, however: the Catholic Church would not enter into gridlock with the Kenyan government over vacuous claims.

However, the historical (1990s) incidents upon which the Kenyan bishops based their similar objections had been resolved, and the bishops were apparently not apprised of the outcomes of all of these studies (furthermore, neither is the general public, as evidenced by the media’s failure to respond with evidence-based objections in place of incredulity).  MaterCare International explains that, “There appears to have been an unfortunate re-cycling of inaccurate information [regarding similar cases in the past],” but also affirms unequivocally that the bishops acted “in good faith on the evidence presented to them, fulfilling their pastoral duty…”

Among the concerns that raised flags for the bishops was the vaccine’s target age group.  This particular vaccine is being administered only to women, and only to those women who are of childbearing age.  A nearly identical campaign was among the 1990s cases wherein infertility-causing vaccines initially appeared on the global scene.  At that time, the World Health Organization brought tetanus vaccines to women of childbearing age in Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, Tanzania, and the Philippines.  Women received a series of vaccines that – like the Kenyan samples – produced false positive results for hCG.  Leaders and concerned citizens – as well as patients themselves – began to question whether the real purpose of this widespread program was to sterilize women without their consent.  A report from Dr. Wahome Ngare (on behalf of the Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association) explains that the vaccine programs which raised concerns in the past closely mirror those of the current Kenyan vaccination program:

WHO conducted massive vaccinations campaigns using the tetanus vaccine laced with HCG (sic) [now known to be false positives]in Mexico in 1993 and Nicaragua and Philippines in 1994…  The campaign targeted women aged 14 – 49 years and each received a total of 5 injections.

The other red flag in the Kenyan vaccination program was the multiple injection protocol.  Again, according to Dr. Ngare (emphasis added):

Giving five doses of tetanus vaccination every 6 months is not usual or the recommended regime for tetanus vaccination.  The only time tetanus vaccine has been given in five doses is when it is used as a carrier in fertility regulating vaccines laced with the pregnancy hormone – Human Chorionic Gonadotropin (HCG) (sic) developed by WHO in 1992.

Further evidence of vaccine foul play comes from a report by the Philippine Medical Association (PMA), which investigated tetanus vaccines sent to them from Canada by the World Health Organization.  The PMA found that these vaccines contained hCG and appeared to be part of a sterilization program to which the Philippine government and female recipients were unaware.  MaterCare International states that false positives occurred because of “non-specific binding to unknown materials of no biological or immunological significance at levels way below the discrimination threshold of the assay system used.”  

In 1995, BBC released a documentary called “The Human Laboratory,” which was an episode in the series, Horizon.  In the opening of the episode, an attorney who has litigated against pharmaceutical companies which produce drugs and devices that are harmful to women says the following of women whose rights have been violated by misogynistic policies: “They have been used as a human laboratory.  They’re just expendable.  Who cares if a Third World woman dies?”

Anecdotal evidence is also provided in the documentary by the late Sr. Mary Pilar Verzosa, RGS, who founded Pro-Life Philippines in the 1970s.  During the 1994 tetanus vaccinations in the Philippines, Sr. Mary Pilar Verzosa had a front-row seat to some horrifying effects that happened to occur in conjunction with the tetanus vaccine.  She recalls:

The women would say, “Why is it that the tetanus shots that we’ve been getting have had effects on us? Our fertility cycles are all fouled up.  Some of the women among us have had bleedings and miscarriages; some have lost their babies at a very early stage.”  The symptoms could come soon after their tetanus vaccination – some the following day, others within a week’s time.  For those who were pregnant on their first three or four months the miscarriage was really frightening… Three out of those four vials [which Verzosa sent for testing]registered positive for HCG (sic), so my suspicions are affirmed that here in our country [that]they are not only giving plain tetanus toxoid vaccination to our women; they are also giving anti-fertility.

The mind behind the anti-fertility vaccine is G.P. Talwar.  Talwar is an Indian researcher who developed the anti-fertility drug by combining a form of hCG (the hormone produced by a woman’s placenta during pregnancy) with what is now called the “Talwar antigen.”  The antigen, according to Talwar, is produced from a gene grown in E. coli.  The following peer-reviewed medical journals chronicle the development and testing of the anti-fertility vaccine.

·         Vaccines for control of fertility and hormone dependent cancers

·         Anti-hCG vaccines are in clinical trials

·          Fertility regulating and immunotherapeutic vaccines reaching human trials stage

One writer condenses the way this vaccine operates based on G.P. Talwar’s 1994 patent for the recombinant birth control vaccine as follows.  Notes connecting this description with the Kenyan bishops’ concerns are added in brackets.

The way this is done according to the patent earlier mentioned is by linking a part of the HCG (sic) hormone, called beta hCG [this is the component with which the Kenyan bishops took issue], to a carrier, a toxic chemical the immune system will react to.   The one specifically mentioned by the patent is the tetanus toxoid [note that this is the vaccine in question].  The patent dating back to 1994 says only a single injection is required to sterilize someone, but references similar previous versions that require up to 4 injections [the Kenyan TT vaccine is being given in multiple installations].

Clearly we see that the parallels between the administration of the anti-fertility vaccine and the TT vaccine were reasonable cause for concern among the Kenyan bishops.  Essentially, the anti-fertility injections described above would make a woman’s body reject pregnancy hormones as foreign invaders, leading to violent miscarriages and, ultimately, sterility.

This injection – which fortunately did not come to the market – would have been a dream come true for the population control fanatics of yesteryear, especially to Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger, who believed no woman should be allowed to give birth without government permission.  Unfortunately, population control fanaticism is alive and well today, leaving little doubt that if and when this technology becomes available to them on a large scale, the misogynistic countries of India and China (among others) would make use of these methods.  Talwar himself acknowledged this potential, saying:

This recombinant vaccine is of considerable interest because it may be adaptable for oral or transcutaneous applications which could be scaled-up economically for large field applications.

Returning to the current state of affairs in Kenya, we recall that the government backpedaled on the previous agreement to test the vaccine and assuage the Kenyan bishops’ fears.  After the government disregarded the clerical request for transparency, the bishops – wanting to ensure the well-being of Kenyan women – had no recourse but to assume responsibility for testing the vaccine themselves.  If they did not investigate, and women were being sterilized under their noses, they would have failed the women of their dioceses.  MaterCare affirms that the bishops fulfilled their pastoral duty in investigating on their own.  The Kenyan bishops describe their efforts (emphasis added):

The Catholic Church struggled and acquired several vials of the vaccine, which we sent to four unrelated Government and private laboratories in Kenya and abroad…  We want to announce here, that all the tests showed that the vaccine used in Kenya in March and October 2014 was indeed laced with the Beta- HCG (sic) hormone.

So the bishops obtained four samples of the vaccine which they sent to four different labs for testing.  The labs included those run by the Kenyan government.  Apparently, however, the false positive results occurred in much the same way as they had in the 1990s cases.  According to MaterCare International’s statement:

The validity of the vaccine assays performed in the… laboratories in Kenya is questionable for 2 reasons: the assays were valid for human serum and not vaccine, and the substance they detected (which is not hCG) varied by a factor of 4000 times between laboratories… Even if the substance assayed was hCG, the levels were so minute that there is no way this could produce antibody levels with a contraceptive effect.

This is good news for Kenyan women.  What is bad news for Kenyan women is that they live under a government that would not give them assurance that their vaccines were safe in the first place.  Without this assurance, there is a risk that women will become skeptical of the vaccine’s safety.  Skepticism of the tetanus vaccine would most likely lead to fewer women availing themselves of something which could potentially save their lives, and therefore does not promote the well-being of Kenyan women.  Liberal pundits have placed the blame for women’s skepticism on the questions raised by concerned parties (like the Kenyan bishops and Kenyan Catholic Doctors Association).  But the questions were legitimate, and the real offender here is the Kenyan government, with an utter lack of transparency and unwillingness to test the vaccine.

Unsurprisingly, the mainstream media pounced at the opportunity to patronize the Catholic Church (in the few articles they did produce on the topic), wholly ignoring the back-story and precedent upon which the Kenyan bishops and Catholic doctors based their concern.  In fact, prior to the MaterCare report–which only came in hindsight of the incident– extensive research yielded zero articles from any faction which adroitly condensed every piece of data necessary for readers to an informed conclusion about what actually took place in Kenya.  One well-known Pro-Life journalist, Dawn Eden, summarized the shoddy coverage in this way:

Either way [whether or not the vaccines are tainted], the health of Kenyans hangs in the balance while a major institution misleads the public.  For that reason alone, I'd say that the allegations and the government's response deserve to be investigated and reported by Stateside mainstream media.

The fact that the mainstream media have largely ignored the discussion reinforces the prominence of American fauxminism, which demands the self-serving accommodations they call “reproductive justice” while ignoring the real injustices being faced by women across the globe.

Another well-known Pro-Life feminist, Pia de Solenni, discusses the essentiality of women having a choice in their fertility—a choice mitigated by the threat of clandestine sterilization (a possibility if, say, the aforementioned hCG vaccine does come to fruition):

Even in the developed countries, where we are contracepting ourselves out of existence, infertility carries a stigma.  A woman is still supposed to be able to have a baby if she wants one…  In the developing countries, a woman’s fertility generally is still considered to be a good thing, a blessing even, so much so that women who suffer from infertility are often stigmatized and shunned, considered unequal among other women.

The bottom line is this: the Kenyan bishops, whose concern over the TT vaccine was well-meaning and informed by confusing precedent, were the only party motivated by concern for women in this debate.  Going forward, MaterCare recommends that Kenyan authorities communicate direction with the World Health Organization in Geneva when they seek legitimately-desired vaccine testing.  WHO, they believe, would “expeditiously test samples supervised by both parties in independent, reputable and competent laboratories.”  MaterCare continues: “Once the absence of hCG is unequivocally confirmed, a public statement and campaign of support for the immunization programme will be necessary to minimize the potential for further damage.”

Before the Kenyan incident fades into memory, we have a duty to women across the globe to probe more deeply into the issues that prompted the Catholic bishops’ concern.  We also have a duty to women to ask why these same queries were not made – and, in fact, were denied – by the major organizations that promote this vaccine.