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Feb 09 2013

Polio vaccinators killed in Nigeria

We already heard of the killing of people carrying out polio vaccinations in Pakistan because of alarmist fears raised by the Taliban that vaccination was part of a western plot, fears that were fuelled by the horrendous decision by the US government to use a fake vaccination scheme to try and unearth Osama bin Laden.

Now come reports that nine female polio vaccinators have been murdered at health centers in northern Nigeria. In this case the causes were myths propagated by Muslim clerics.

Some Nigerian Muslim leaders have previously opposed polio vaccinations, claiming they could cause infertility.

On Thursday, a controversial Islamic cleric spoke out against the polio vaccination campaign, telling people that new cases of polio were caused by contaminated medicine.

The world is very close to completely eradicating polio. Only three countries reported outbreaks last year: Nigeria (121), Pakistan (58), and Afghanistan (37). In all three countries, Islamic groups are the ones hindering the vaccination campaigns.

Global eradication of polio would be a monumental achievement, given how hard it is to reach remote parts of the world and carry out the proper regimen of doses. The people doing this work are often volunteers and often women and their heroic efforts to eradicate this dreaded disease should hailed and supported by everyone, not undermined by ignorant religious fanatics.

5 comments

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  1. 1
    gridironmonger

    I head-desked and cursed up a storm when the news of the vaccine aspect of the OBL story came out. That was VERY short-sighted and counterproductive, I thought at the time. Anyone could see violent blow-back against vaccine programs coming — and the risks of vaccine-preventable infectious diseases vs the risk of OBL/aQ-inspired terrorism seem pretty unbalanced when the long sweep of history is considered.

    However, I think that is should be emphasized that violent, conspiracy-theorizing, Muslim anti-vaxxers existed in Nigeria long before the OBL vaccine program ruse. For more than a decade (I don’t know exactly how long, but I remember reading articles on this topic years ago and 10 years is a clear minimum with a brief google search), certain Muslims in Nigeria have promoted the “vaccines are a Western plot to sterilize Muslim girls” theory. And they’ve been effective. People refuse vaccinations and even try to falsify vaccine records to prevent their kids from being vaccinated. And now they’re killing people. I don’t have polite/civilized words for what I feel about this, or those people.

    This is completely ridiculous and unacceptable. I wish people around the world would be more righteously indignant about how close we are to a major accomplishment of human kind and how a tiny group of ignorant fearful/hateful fools are standing in the way of it.

    Polio is a very rare disease, in so far as we:
    a) understand its pathophysiology and epidemiology very well,
    b) have very effective preventative measures for it (i.e. vaccines),
    c) have sufficient resources available to devote to its eradication, and
    d) have made enough progress to be within striking distance of ultimate success.

    This state of affairs is absolutely the exception when it comes to infectious diseases. It is a very, very rare situation. We’ve only EVER done it once for humans (smallpox) and once for livestock (rinderpest). Only once in the history of human health have we EVER eradicated a burdensome infectious virus, and these cretins are standing in the way of number two.

  2. 2
    stonyground

    Excellent post, gridironmonger. You said everything that I wanted to and more.

  3. 3
    Jockaira

    “…horrendous decision by the US government to use a fake vaccination scheme to try and unearth Osama bin Laden.”

    Was the “scheme” utilising fake vaccine or using a legitimate vaccination program as a front to discover the wherebouts of OBL? The phrasing above could be used by anti-vaxers to demonstrate evil intent of the vaccine program. Please clarify.

  4. 4
    Mano Singham

    The scheme was an entirely fake project conceived and implemented by the CIA who hired a local doctor to run it and and recruited other health workers (some of whom likely did not know they were part of a CIA plot) to implement it. You can read about it here.

    They were supposedly vaccinating against Hepatitis B but that requires three spaced out doses does to be effective but they did only the first one. Whether the vaccines they used for that were even real, I don’t know.

  5. 5
    Jockaira

    Thanks for the clarification and the link. The Guardian is not usually well-known for reportage reliability but the article seems well-written and covers a lot of questions I’ve had about this incident. I’ll take their word for it.

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