Does This Photo Show Effects of Vaccine Trials on Africans?

A tweep shared the screenshot above on July 6, 2020 with claims that it shows the effects of vaccine trials in Africa. The image shows children with deformed limbs, some crawling and others aided by crutches.


African countries have been grounds for clinical trials by large pharmaceutical companies, some of which have raised human rights concerns over the years.

In 1996, Pfizer, a pharmaceutical company, conducted a drug trial in Kano, Nigeria during an epidemic of bacterial meningitis.  The company tested an experimental antibiotic drug, Trovan, on about 200 children during this time. 11 children died in the trial.

Still, in the 1990s, HIV/AIDS trials in Zimbabwe on over 17,000 women for medication that prevents mother-to-child transmission of the virus led to an estimated 1000 babies contracting the disease.

In the 1970s-80s, South Africa’s apartheid army forced an estimated 900 white lesbian and gay soldiers to undergo ‘sex-exchange‘ operations and submitted many to chemical castration, electric shock, and other unethical medical experiments.

More recently, there was uproar over Africa COVID-19 vaccine trial suggestions.


A reverse image search shows that the image has appeared in several publications over the years.

This article by CBS News dated September 20, 2011 credits the image to the World Health Organization (WHO) as being of an undated photo of polio patients from Sierra Leone as seen in the screenshot below:

Poliomyelitis (polio) is a highly infectious viral disease that largely affects children under 5 years of age. The virus is transmitted by person-to-person spread mainly through the faecal-oral route or, less frequently, by a common vehicle (e.g. contaminated water or food) and multiplies in the intestine, from where it can invade the nervous system and cause paralysis.

Immunization Action Coalition (IAC), also identifies the photo as being from Cheshire Home for Handicapped Children in Freetown, Sierra Leone. A look at the home’s website shows an image of children in similar blue tops as those of the ones in the picture in question.

More search results show another photo with children dressed similarly to the one shared online as can be seen from the screenshot below, as captured by photographer Jean-Marc Giboux:

A search for the photographer shows that in his publication on April 4, 2020, on Visura, a visual storytelling platform, Jean-Marc says he started covering polio eradication efforts in 1996 to 2014 in Asia and Africa. He shared the picture above and dated it 1998 from Sierra Leone as can be seen from the screenshot below:


The photo in question is an old one showing cases of poliomyelitis and has nothing to do with vaccine trials in Africa, making the claim, FALSE.

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