Nigerian President Obasanjo Endorses Panel Findings Showing That Polio Vaccine Not Contaminated With HIV
Test results on a polio vaccine that is being used in Nigeria in an effort to eradicate the disease indicate that the vaccine is safe, Nigerian President Olusegun Obasanjo said on Wednesday in an attempt to ease Muslim Nigerians' fears that the vaccines are contaminated with HIV and a form of a female hormone, the AP/San Jose Mercury News reports (Da Costa, AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17). World Health Organization efforts to immunize 15 million African children were hampered in October 2003 when Muslim leaders in some of Nigeria's northern states said that the immunization effort was part of a U.S. plan to decimate the Muslim population by spreading HIV/AIDS and infertility. The Nigerian government last month sent state and religious representatives to South Africa, Indonesia and India to observe testing of the polio vaccine and bring back proof that it is not contaminated with HIV (Kaiser Daily HIV/AIDS Report, 2/26). The test results "categorically attest to the safety of the oral polio vaccine and clears it of contamination by HIV, cancerous agents and anti-fertility agents," Obasanjo said (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17).
However, a spokesperson for Kano -- one of the states banning the vaccine -- said that Kano Gov. Ibrahim Shekarau and the state's "influential" traditional leader Ado Bayero disagreed with the results of the tests, AFP/New York Times reports. "All the results studied proved contamination of the vaccine," the spokesperson said, adding, "Therefore all the stakeholders agreed with the government not to allow polio vaccination in Kano until we can procure uncontaminated vaccines for our people" (AFP/New York Times, 3/18). A $3 billion, 16-year global campaign to eradicate polio has reduced the number of cases of the disease from 350,000 in 1988 to fewer than 1,000 last year. However, officials say that the Nigerian boycott of the vaccine for new cases of polio spreading from Nigeria to eight other African countries where the disease previously had been eradicated, the AP/News reports (AP/San Jose Mercury News, 3/17).