Nigerian Officials Halt Polio Inoculation Due to Muslim Leaders’ Claims of HIV-Contaminated Vaccines
Nigerian officials on Wednesday said that polio vaccines administered as part of a nationwide campaign will be tested for HIV contamination after some Muslim leaders in the northern part of the country said the immunization effort is "part of a U.S. plan to decimate the Muslim population by spreading AIDS and infertility," the AP/Las Vegas Sun reports. On Friday, health workers in Nigeria launched a project to immunize 15 million African children at immediate risk of contracting polio, but the vaccinations were hampered by the Muslim leaders' claims. Although Muslims and Christians in the southern part of the country "largely embraced" the immunization program, three predominantly Muslim states in the northern part of the country delayed or refused permission for the immunizations, and many people in other predominantly Muslim states in the North where the immunizations were allowed to continue would not allow health officials into their homes, according to the AP/Sun. International health officials have said that the claims are "ridiculous," according to the AP/Sun (Mbachu, AP/Las Vegas Sun, 10/30).
World Health Organization officials have said that the vaccines are the same as those used in other countries and are not contaminated, the Boston Globe/San Francisco Chronicle reports. David Heymann, special adviser on polio to the WHO director general, said, "Nigeria is the area in the world that we are most concerned about at present. There can be a renewed effort, but we are going to have to wait a while." He added that it is likely that a new immunization drive will not begin until after the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which began on Monday, according to the Globe/Chronicle. Datti Ahmed, a medical doctor and president of Nigeria's Supreme Council for Shariah law, reportedly said that local authorities "needed more time to check reports" on the vaccine, according to the Globe/Chronicle. But Heymann said that WHO and the Nigerian government have presented test results on the vaccine to the Islamic Shariah council for "quite a while, and they don't show any contamination" (Donnelly, Boston Globe/San Francisco Chronicle, 10/30).