Thursday, July 14, 2005

Muslims' boycott of polio vaccine in Nigeria allows almost eradicated disease to make a comeback

Vaccine boycott spreads polio:

Kano, Nigeria - Polio left Dauda Abdullahi with twisted limbs, unable to walk. But he refuses to allow his children to be immunised against the disease that crippled him three decades ago.

'Only Allah can save us. I don't trust medicine,' the 42-year-old roadside shoemaker said.

Immunising toddlers with mouth drops has reduced the number of polio cases from 350 000 children annually in the 1980s to fewer than 800 worldwide last year. Yet the virus is spreading again from Nigeria, where UN officials say a third of the world's cases are the result of a vaccine boycott.

Amid rising Muslim-Western tensions worldwide, Nigeria's Muslims are heeding allegations that the vaccine is a US plot to spread Aids or infertility.

Since October, three northern Nigerian states have banned door-to-door vaccinations until they are satisfied the vaccines do not contain harmful substances.

'Since September 11, the Muslim world is beginning to be suspicious of any move from the Western world,' said Sule Ya'u Sule, speaking for the governor of Kano, one of the states where the vaccine is banned. 'Our people have become really concerned about polio vaccine.'

UN and Nigerian federal government officials stress the vaccines have repeatedly been proven safe. But detractors don't believe it, and meanwhile polio strains are spreading from northern Nigeria's trading centre of Kano to at least seven nearby countries where the disease was previously eradicated, says the World Health Organisation's Bruce Aylward."

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