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Nigerian Governors Launch Polio Eradication Campaign

  • Mike Mbonye

Experts say the initiative will succeed if leaders tell the public the vaccine is harmless

The 36-member Nigerian Governors’ Forum has launched a new initiative to rid the country of polio.

Chibuike Amaechi, governor of Rivers State in the Niger Delta region of Nigeria, is the chairman of the forum. Last Saturday, he launched the campaign on behalf of all of the governors in the country and pledged to eradicate the disease.

Health experts have been reacting to the initiative.

Dr. Godwin Mpi, the Permanent Secretary in the Rivers State Ministry of Health called the effort a “great move happening for the first time in this country. It shows the orientation of the leadership of the Governors' Forum itself.”

‘’ I am not surprised,” he continued, “because Governor Amaechi is a people-oriented governor who has the welfare of the common man at heart. ‘’

In recent years, some leaders especially in the country’s mostly Muslim north, warned that the vaccine was an attempt to sterilize the population.

Volunteers administer polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria.

Volunteers administer polio vaccine to a child in Kaduna, Nigeria.

But experts say the campaign can succeed if leaders, such as the governors, get involved and convince their citizens that the polio vaccine is harmless. The international medical community says the medication is safe and has no harmful effects on children.

‘’In medical school, we are told that every drug is a potential poison. Even water can be [if it is polluted],” said Mpi. “But the polio vaccine is one I know to be very very safe. I know the vaccine, even when [too much is given], is harmless.”

’To say the vaccine [harms anyone],” he continued, “is false, mendacious, without foundation. There is no basis at all to make that allegation.”

He says Rivers State has been free of the polio virus for several years.

“If we can eradicate polio in Rivers State,” he said, “it can be done in Nigeria.”

The United Nations says the disease remains in only a handful of countries, including Pakistan, India and Nigeria.