Nigeria Sends State, Muslim Representatives Abroad To Show Polio Vaccine Not HIV-Contaminated
The Nigerian government on Friday announced that it is sending state and religious representatives to South Africa, Indonesia and India this week to observe testing of the polio vaccine and "bring back proof" that it is not contaminated with HIV, the AP/Long Island Newsday reports (McKenzie, AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/7). In October 2003, health workers in Nigeria launched a project to immunize 15 million African children at immediate risk of contracting polio. However, the vaccinations were hampered when 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 HIV/AIDS and infertility (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 10/31/03). Three predominantly Muslim northern states since October 2003 have stopped door-to-door polio vaccinations. Nigerian and South African officials said that government tests of the vaccine have shown "conclusively" that it is safe and free of HIV, according to the AP/Newsday. However, officials in some northern states said that they had conducted their own tests of the vaccine and had found trace amounts of the female hormones estrogen and progesterone. Jama'atul Nasril Islam, one of the country's "most influential" Muslim groups, said it had sponsored vaccine tests in India and Britain and had found similar substances, the AP/Newsday reports.
Nigerian Health Minister Eyitayo Lambo will be joined on the mission by state representatives and representatives from religious organizations, including Jama'atul Nasril Islam. "We want all the stakeholders to see for themselves and be convinced about whether or not the polio vaccines are safe," Lambo said. Lawal Bichi, head of pharmacology at Bayero University, who oversaw the testing of the vaccine in the northern state of Kano, also is scheduled to be a part of the mission, according to the AP/Newsday. "I am going in with an open mind," Bichi said, adding, "All the parties are interested in the health of the children and the eradication of polio." Bruce Aylward, global coordinator of the World Health Organization's polio eradication campaign, said that the vaccine has been repeatedly shown to be safe and free of HIV. According to Aylward, West African nations are scheduled to hold their next door-to-door polio vaccination campaign Feb. 23-26 (AP/Long Island Newsday, 2/7).