Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 15, 2020

Seven Questions: Johns Hopkins questioned about 40 years of vaccine experiments on Navajos. Censored News awaits response.

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News
Oct. 15, 2020

Update Oct. 22, 2020 by Censored News
Johns Hopkins University researchers on the Navajo Nation responded in general to our questions but has not responded to the most important questions regarding the past 40 years of vaccine experiments on Navajos and White Mountain Apache. We have asked a second time: "Have any Navajos or Apaches become sick or died as a result of Johns Hopkins experimental medicines or treatments? (2) Are blood and DNA of Navajo or Apache stored, how are they used, and who has access to these?"

WINDOW ROCK, Arizona -- Johns Hopkins University researchers have been carrying out medical research on Navajos on the Navajo Nation for 40 years. During those years, very little has been made public about the vaccine and medical research which was carried out in Indian Health Service Hospitals on the Navajo Nation.

Now, Johns Hopkins medical researchers are leading the controversial coronavirus vaccine experiments on Navajos and the Navajo government is pushing the vaccine experiments.

Johns Hopkins, already heading up the epidemiology studies of the coronavirus on the Navajo Nation, is now carrying out the vaccine experiments with its partners, two drug companies, Pfizer and the German company BioNTech.

Although Johns Hopkins medical researchers are using IHS facilities -- they are medical researchers --  not the Indian Health Service.

Johns Hopkins is of concern because its medical researchers knowingly infected Indigenous in Guatemala with syphilis during it medical research in the 1940s. This remained secret for decades.

Now, Johns Hopkins and its partners are being sued in federal court. The pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation are being sued for $1 billion.

The risks of the vaccine experiments became more apparent this week.

Currently, two coronavirus vaccine experiments have been halted because people have become ill. Eli Lilly and Johnson and Johnson halted their vaccine experiments after people became ill this week. Earlier, AstraZeneca halted its coronavirus vaccine experiments after a rare neurological condition developed in a participant.

Although there are numerous coronavirus vaccine experiments underway, the Trump administration has purchased large amounts of the Pfizer vaccine in advance and included the promise of a vaccine as part of his political campaign.

CNN reports that Trump is pressuring the CEO of Pfizer and other drug companies to speed up the vaccine before the election. Navajo Vice President Myron Lizer has publicly joined the Trump campaign.

Censored News posed these questions to Johns Hopkins two days ago, and is awaiting a response.

The questions focus on the vaccines and medicines used in medical experiments on Navajos since Johns Hopkins arrived 40 years ago, and whether Navajos became sick or died from the experiments.

Further, we question whether Navajos were fully informed in their first language, Dine' or English.

Censored News asked whether blood, tissue and DNA are being extracted and stored, what it is being used for, and who has access to it.

Censored News questions were sent to Laura Hammitt, director of infectious disease programs at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, who is overseeing the COVID-19 vaccine trials on the Navajo Nation.

Seven Questions from Censored News

Hello Laura Hammitt,

Censored News is seeking responses to these questions for an upcoming article:

-- What vaccines and medicines has Johns Hopkins used in treatment, or experimental studies, on Navajos on the Navajo Nation since arriving in the early 1980s? Please include Gallup IHS data.

-- Did any Navajos become sick or die as a result of Johns Hopkins use of vaccines or medicines over the past 40 years?

-- Has Johns Hopkins been sued by any Native Americans as a result of the use of any of its vaccines or medicines?

-- Have Dine' translators always been present to explain Johns Hopkins' treatment and research to Navajos?

-- Has Johns Hopkins made it clear, in verbal information in the person's first language, in IHS hospitals that Johns Hopkins is an entity of medical research, and is not the same as IHS? 

-- Has Johns Hopkins collected blood, tissue, DNA and other samples from Navajos? Where is it stored, how is it used, and who else has access to it?

-- Were Navajos informed in their first language concerning the storage and use in research of their blood, tissue, DNA and other samples?

Thank you for a timely response.
Brenda Norrell, publisher, Censored News

Dine' professor blocked from questioning vaccine studies

The Navajo President's Office blocked a Dine' assistant professor from questioning the vaccine experiments.

Dine' College Assoc. Professor Christine M. Ami said, "I have been officially blocked from commenting on the Office of President and Vice President's site. This is an example of the censorship that our Navajo Nation government is perusing. I’m not being belligerent -- I am asking basic questions."

Ami raises the important ethical question of the medical researchers and drug companies offering money as an incentive in a population that is economically disadvantaged, especially when the vaccine risks are unknown.

After being blocked, Ami posted her questions online:

"1) how was community consent obtained?
2) what are the possible, dangerous consequences of this research -- both biologically and culturally?

3) how do you consider paying participants from a socioeconomically disadvantaged population as 'volunteering'?"

"Once again it is not that I don’t agree with clinical testing, but I don’t agree with the coercive measure being utilized by our Navajo Nation government to solicit participation. I just want our People to be fully informed," Ami said.

Ami holds a doctoral degree in Native American Studies, with an emphasis in Dine' Studies, Animal Studies and Decolonial Studies.

It is unknown whether Johns Hopkins is collecting blood, tissue and DNA samples of Navajos and how it is being used.

The Havasupai Nation had to go to court halt ASU researchers from misusing their blood samples for genetics research, taken during  a diabetes study.

Now, 571 Navajos have died from coronavirus. More than 3,400 have the virus and have not recovered.

Censored News will publish a follow-up to this article.


Johns Hopkins University history of medical experiments on Navajos

Johns Hopkins University arrived on the Navajo and White Mountain Apache Nations in 1980. Johns Hopkins history of vaccine and medical experiments is stated on its website:

In 1980, a young Indian-born pediatrician named Mathuram Santosham arrived on the White Mountain Apache Reservation to address an outbreak of diarrheal disease in babies. Dr. Santosham and his team trained Apache community health workers to administer oral rehydration solution (ORS) to children with serious diarrhea. The rate of diarrheal deaths dropped to zero. They established that infants could eat—and bounce-back faster—after taking ORS. Apaches, through these landmark studies, made medical history.

In partnership with the Apache tribe and Navajo Nation, we introduced other promising vaccines. We evaluated their effectiveness, and published results that would change global practice.

Following the introduction of ORS and vaccines that prevented childhood pneumonia and meningitis, the Apache and Navajo tribes asked Santosham to help them to look beyond infectious disease. Newer, pressing problems were concerning the tribes including suicide, unprepared parenting, adolescent health, and a growing burden of chronic disease. And together, we discovered new solutions.

Among the solutions are these now underway:

  • Convalescent plasma study: This is a medical remedy that has been used for centuries and that could provide a critical stop-gap option for COVID-19 while we’re waiting for effective vaccines. 
  • Seroprevalence study: Serological data can provide critical evidence to guide policy and preparedness decisions
The seroprevalence surveys use blood tests to identify people in a population who have antibodies to the virus.

Johns Hopkins states it is also involved in COVID-19 surveillance and contract tracing on Native American lands, including the Navajo Nation.

Johns Hopkins researchers received $35 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Defense in July for two nationwide clinical trials to test the effectiveness of a convalescent blood plasma outpatient treatment. The treatment is a transfusion of a blood product from COVID-19 survivors that contains antibodies that may help the patient’s immune system fight the virus, Johns Hopkins said in a news release.

Read more at Johns Hopkins: 

News References

Havasupai and informed consent

Censored News asked Johns Hopkins medical researchers if they are collecting blood, tissue and DNA of Navajos and using it in other research. Here's one reason why. The Havasupai Nation had to go to court to halt ASU researchers from misusing their blood samples in genetic research. This article on the Havasupai case and ethics describes informed consent in regards to the Nazis and Nuremberg trials. In our article today, we also question if Johns Hopkins received informed consent from Navajos in their first language, Dine' or English, while carrying out vaccine and medical experiments on Navajos for the past 40 years.

Eli Lilly and Johnson and Johnson both halt coronavirus vaccine experiments

COVID-19 vaccine trials starting this week on Navajo: Sept. 17, 2020
By Rima Krisst | Sep 17, 2020 | CORONAVIRUS UPDATES, News | WINDOW ROCK: Volunteer vaccine trials with Pfizer-BioNTech for COVID-19 will be starting this week on Navajo ... The common sentiment among many people who responded to the post was that they don’t want to be used as “lab rats” or “guinea pigs.” “Hell no!” read several responses.

Laura Hammitt, director of infectious disease programs at the Johns Hopkins Center for American Indian Health, who is overseeing the COVID-19 vaccine trials on Navajo, said the choice to go with the Pfizer trial was vetted by health professionals who serve the Navajo Nation. These include the Navajo Department of Health, the Indian Health Service and tribal health providers.

Indigenous in Guatemala infected by Johns Hopkins in medical experiments:

"A U.S. federal judge in Maryland has ruled that pharmaceutical company Bristol-Myers Squibb, Johns Hopkins University and the Rockefeller Foundation must face a $1 billion lawsuit over their roles in a 1940s medical experiment that saw hundreds of Guatemalans infected with syphilis.

About 775 Guatemalan victims and relatives in 2015 launched a civil suit over the U.S.-led experiment, which aimed to find out if penicillin could be used to prevent sexually transmitted diseases."

CNN: Trump pressuring Pfizer and others to speed up vaccine before the election:

U.S. Government Engages Pfizer to Produce Millions of Doses of COVID-19 Vaccine: U.S. Government Press Statement

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the Department of Defense (DoD) today announced an agreement with U.S.-based Pfizer Inc. for large-scale production and nationwide delivery of 100 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine in the United States following the vaccine’s successful manufacture and approval. The agreement also allows the U.S. government to acquire an additional 500 million doses. The federal government will own the 100 million doses of vaccine initially produced as a result of this agreement, and Pfizer will deliver the doses in the United States if the product receives Emergency Use Authorization (EUA) or licensure from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), as outlined in FDA guidance, after completing a demonstration of safety and efficacy in a large Phase 3 clinical trial.

About the author

Brenda Norrell was a news reporter for Navajo Times in the early 1980s when she observed Johns Hopkins University researchers at Fort Defiance Indian Health hospital on the Navajo Nation. The questions about Johns Hopkins and its secrecy continued through the years. While living on the Navajo Nation for 18 years, Norrell was a stringer for Associated Press and USA Today and worked for local and national publications.

After serving as a longtime staff reporter covering the Southwest for Indian Country Today, she was censored and terminated. As a result, she created Censored News in 2006. She has a master's degree in international health, focused on water, nutrition, and infectious diseases.

Copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News, may not be used without permission.

1 comment:

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