In the segment broadcast on the on French TV channel LCI, Jean-Paul Mira and Camille Locht raised the idea of testing new vaccines on impoverished African populations.
Mira is head of the intensive care department at the Cochin Hospital in Paris, while Locht is research director at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research (INSERM).
"If I can be provocative," said Mira, "shouldn't we do this study in Africa where there are no masks, no treatment, no intensive care? A bit like we did in some studies on AIDS. We tried things on prostitutes because they are highly exposed and do not protect themselves."
Locht agreed, saying: "You are right. We are actually thinking of a parallel study in Africa to use with the same kind of approach with BCG placebos," referring to vaccination against tuberculosis INSERM says has appeared to protect children against infections, particularly respiratory ones.
"We will in fact think seriously about it," he said.The footage, broadcast on April 1, triggered a deluge of outrage accusing the doctors of white colonial attitudes.
Several of Africa's leading footballers, including former Chelsea star Didier Drogba and former Barcelona striker Samuel Eto'o, also tweeted their anger.
Drogba, who is from Ivory Coast, tweeted: "It is totally inconceivable we keep on cautioning this. Africa isn't a testing lab. I would like to vividly denounce those demeaning, false and most of all deeply racists [sic] words."
"Welcome to the West, where white people believe themselves to be so superior that racism and debility become commonplace," tweeted Ba, who is from Senegal. "Time to rise."
INSERM, ranked as the world's second-best research institution in the health sector, issued an official statement on Twitter alleging the proposal had been "wrongly interpreted" and included as hashtag saying "#FakeNews."
On April 2, there more than 6 700 confirmed cases and 229 deaths of the coronavirus in the entire African continent, with many countries imposing a range of prevention and containment measures against the spread of the pandemic, according to African health officials.
France, meanwhile, has logged 59 105 infections and 5 387 deaths.
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