NAIROBI, Kenya — Kenya's bishops insisted that "no further mass tetanus vaccination campaigns" take place in the country until the "vaccines have been appropriately tested and proven to be safe."
The Jan. 14 statement signed by all of the bishops followed a recent report that one-third of the vials of the tetanus vaccine tested contained a hormone linked to birth control. At the direction of the bishops, the vials were tested at five different laboratories in Kenya.
The government rejected the results, citing poor methodology. The Ministry of Health said it tested 10 vials and found them to be free of the hormone.
In their statement, the bishops said the Catholic church had been at the forefront of promoting an investigation into these vaccines and that initial requests by church officials to test the vaccines were rejected by the country's health ministry.
In November, the bishops charged that the vaccine, targeted to women of child-bearing age and not to men, was being administered in a campaign sponsored by the World Health Organization and UNICEF that had been guarded by secrecy and deception.
The bishops said they suspected the vaccine contained beta human chorionic gonadotropin, or beta hCG, which prevents women from becoming pregnant. In November, a joint committee formed of church leaders, medical doctors, and the parliamentary Committee on Health agreed to test samples of the vaccine at laboratories around the world.
Preliminary test results, released Jan. 10, showed that three of 9 vials of the tetanus vaccine contained beta hCG. The others tested negative.
The results were included in a preliminary executive summary of the report of the joint Kenya Catholic Conference of Bishops and Kenyan Ministry of Health, along with a committee of experts on tetanus vaccine testing.
At the height of the issue, the Kenyan bishops questioned why the national immunization campaign was aimed at women between the ages of 14-59 and also why the government was conducting this campaign when the bishops were not aware of a nationwide tetanus crisis.