A top Russian politician, Vladimir Zhirinovsky, has suggested that prisoners in Russia should be used as guinea pigs to test experimental COVID-19 vaccines. Yes, that's right.
He recommended that prisoners who have committed heinous crimes could have their sentences halved if they agreed to the clinical trials.
Zhirinovsky further said that prisoners would jump at the opportunity and would willingly participate in such an experiment. He said that the need of the hour is more volunteers. So, if prisoners with long sentences are told that there's a new medicine on the block and their sentences would be reduced if they volunteer for it, a lot of people would sign up for it.
Zhirinovsky, who is a pro-Putin politician, has drawn flak for his comments. Several human rights activists and groups have reached out to Russian president Vladimir Putin and urged him not to consider such a move on humanitarian grounds.
Rossiya Sidyashchaya, an activist working with prisoners' rights in Russia has allegedly commented that using prisoners as cattle is a common practice in the country, according to a report by the Daily Mail.
Many lawyers are also against the move, and have said that convicts are not guinea pigs on whom experiments can be carried out - experiments which can leave them injured, gravely ill and might even prove fatal for them.
This is, however, not the first time that prisoners have been used as guinea pigs in medical experiments. There are news reports dating back to the 1960s, which show how prisoners, who are often looked at as vulnerable and more expendable than the general population, have been frequently used for medical experiments like vaccines for viruses and even AIDS.
A report from 2001 shows how during the Aids outbreak, prisoners in Florida and Texas were targeted simply because they are far more "available."