Parliament has ordered the Ministry of Health to, as a matter of urgency, suspend the “secret” Ebola vaccine trial at Hohoe in the Volta Region.
The Speaker, Edward Adjaho, who gave the order, told the Business Committee to schedule the Minister of Health, Alex Segbefia, to appear before the House on Tuesday, June 16, to respond to questions on the issue.
The order followed a statement on the floor by the Member of Parliament for Ho West, Emmanuel Bedzrah, on behalf of the Volta Caucus in the House, on the Ebola vaccine being tried at Hohoe without the knowledge of the general public.
“Mr. Speaker, we are not against our research institutions undertaking research and medical trials, but we cannot accept the situation where the proposed trial is carried out without proper communication and interaction with major stakeholders in the region,” he said.
“MPs from the region have been inundated with phone calls from panic-stricken constituents who believe that this trial is aimed at spreading the dreaded Ebola disease in the Volta Region,” Mr. Bedzrah added.
According to him, there was no proper sensitisation and community engagement before the investigators started recruiting people for the trial.
“We are reliably informed that students of the Hohoe Midwifery School were made to fill out forms and promised GH¢200 and a mobile phone each, if they would volunteer in the exercise,” he said.
He said MPs had a responsibility of ensuring the safety and well-being of their constituents, and appealed to the House to order the Health Ministry to suspend the trial.
Contributing to the statement, the Deputy Minister of Education, Samuel Okudzeto Ablakwa, said it was unacceptable for the ministry to carry out such a sensitive exercise without proper communication and sensitisation.
He said the exercise had created anxiety and panic in the Hohoe municipality because it was carried out under some shroud of secrecy, and joined the call for the Health Minister to be invited to the House to brief the members.
The exercise, according to Mr. Ablakwa, did not have political approval from the government, and appealed to his colleagues not to put the blame on the government.
The Deputy Minority Leader, Dominic Nitiwul, also contributing to the statement, expressed concern that such an exercise could be carried out in the municipality without the government’s approval.
“The government cannot claim that this dangerous exercise has no political approval. This is a very serious matter because it could have dire consequences on the country,” he said.
He said it was important to inform and educate the general public on the trial, and added, “If we are not lucky and there is a leakage, it will have serious repercussions on the country”
The Majority Chief Whip, Alhaji Mohammed-Mubarak Muntaka, suggested that the issue be referred to the Health Committee so that all stakeholders such as the Food and Drugs Authority could be invited to respond to the issues.
“We need to invite the foreign pharmaceutical companies to do some explanations, because entering into a community and using mobile phones and GH¢200 to entice people for such a dangerous research is simply unacceptable,” he said.
Meanwhile, the District Level Election Regulation 2015 (C.I 89) matured in the House yesterday, and was subsequently passed.
By Yaw Kyei