Kano State Restarts Immunization Programme

2 August 2004

After almost one year of suspending polio immunization activities in the state, the Kano State Governor, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau made good his promise to restart the programme, when last Saturday, 31st July 2004, he personally flagged off the immunization campaign in the village of Takai, 80 kilometres from the capital city of Kano.

The ceremony was well attended, by officials of the Federal Ministry of Health, the National Programme on Immunization and Polio Partners including WHO, UNICEF, Rotary International and USAID. Members of the State Executive Council, political, traditional and religious leaders in the state were also in attendance.

Kano state suspended the campaign sometime last year following alleged reports that the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) being used for the exercise was contaminated with infertility agents. There was also the belief that the campaign was a ploy by the Western world to depopulate the Muslim community.

In the intervening months, the number of new polio cases had exploded, spreading from Kano across Africa’s most populous country, Nigeria and re-infecting a number of other African countries that had been free of the virus for some years. Nigeria now has about 81% of the world’s active cases, having recorded 430 cases between January and mid-June this year.

Speaking at the flag-off ceremony, Mallam Shekarau, who traced the history of the controversy surrounding the OPV, told the gathering that the State Government was satisfied with the reports of the two Committees it set up, which attested to the safety of the OPV, hence it decided to restart the campaign. He then urged all the citizens to bring out their children below five years of age to receive two drops of the OPV, irrespective of their immunization status.

Children of prominent citizens of the State including two of the Commissioner for Water Resources were immunized at the flag-off. High level advocacy had ensured that members of the State Executive Council, Local Government Chairmen, traditional and religious leaders mobilized members of their various communities to participate in the four-day exercise.

Meanwhile, reports from the field indicate that the exercise has gone on successfully. Cases of rejection are said not to be very pronounced, an indication that a lot of social mobilization had been carried out. Kano State is expected to embark on another round of the campaign in about four weeks time, according to the WHO State EPI Team Coordinator, Dr. Takai.

With this new development and continued concerted effort of both Government and the Polio Partners, it is hoped that the expected target date of eradicating poliovirus would be achieved.

For more information, please contact Mr. Austine Oghide, NPO/HIP, WHO, 443, Herbert Macaulay Road, Yaba Lagos. Tel: (234) 1 5453661; 2903276-7; 7737092-3 Fax: (234) 1 5452179 E-mail:oghidea@who-nigeria.org