Kano State, Nigeria fully endorses OPV

Kano, Nigeria: 2 October 2004 – The Executive Governor of Kano State, Nigeria, Mallam Ibrahim Shekarau has reiterated that the Oral Polio Vaccine (OPV) is safe for consumption by children. He has consequently directed all Kano indigenes and indeed all Nigerians to ensure that their children below five years of age are immunized during the forthcoming National Immunization Days (NIDs) scheduled for 9th – 12th October 2004, as well as in subsequent rounds.

Mallam Shekarau made the declaration during his welcome address at the flag-off ceremony of the 2004 synchronized NIDs for West and Central African countries, hosted by the State.

Kano state suspended immunization for polio eradication for about a year following allegations spearheaded by some Moslem clerics that OPV contained substances likely to cause infertility in females. The suspension led to increase in the circulation of wild poliovirus within the country, with export to some African countries.

The Governor who said his government inherited the OPV controversy, which he said started a long time ago, however decided to address the problem boldly and therefore brought it into scientific scrutiny, in order to satisfy all stakeholders. He remarked that two Committees set up by his administration attested to the safety of OPV after detailed investigation within and outside the country.

In his words, “the flag-off ceremony of today not only marks the final push for polio eradication but signals the end of the oral polio vaccine controversy in Nigeria”.

Following positive reports of its Committees, Kano state Government resumed the polio immunization campaign in July this year, and has since participated in two rounds of Sub-National Immunization Days (SNIDs) conducted in the country.

Mallam Shekarau said the exercises in July and September had convinced people that polio was a reality and that they were therefore prepared to bring out their children for immunization. To buttress this reality, he personally immunized his one-year old daughter at the event.

Governor Shekarau added that the state recorded tremendous success in the two rounds as 2.1 million and 2.5 million children respectively were immunized. The state government, he said, provided over one hundred million naira for the exercises.

Also at the event, the Sultan of Sokoto, represented by the Emir of Kano, Alhaji Ado Bayero and a representative of the Christian Association of Nigeria made statements of support for polio eradication. The Sultan said that traditional rulers in the country would continue to play unequalled role in polio eradication through advocacy and community mobilization as well as ensure quality NIDs, “so that our children can achieve their dreams”.

Present at the flag-off ceremony were the President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria and Chairman of the African Union, Chief Olusegun Obasanjo; Chairman of the African Union Commission, Professor Alpha Omar Konare; Head of the European Commission Delegation to Nigeria; Polio Eradication Partners; Heads of United Nations Agencies in Nigeria; State Chief Executives as well as paramount traditional and religious leaders.

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, 08034022390. Fax: (234) 1 5452179 E-mail: oghidea@who-nigeria.org