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Nigerian Committee Begins 3 Nation Tour to Determine Safety of Polio Vaccine - 2004-02-08

A committee from Nigeria set out on a three-country tour Sunday, to evaluate the safety of polio vaccinations.

A group of Nigerian officials, scientists and Islamic leaders are undertaking the mission to South Africa, Indonesia and India to satisfy themselves that the vaccine is not contaminated.

Rumors arose last August in three northern states, primarily Muslim, that the vaccine was part of a western plot to spread HIV/AIDS. Another rumor was that the vaccine would cause infertility in the women.

As a result, the worldwide campaign to eradicate polio has been suspended in that region and, according to the United Nations, is causing the virus to spread to neighboring countries.

Nigerian officials say they hope the week-long tour will allow the team of scientists and Islamic leaders to see for themselves that the vaccine is safe so that the polio eradication program may continue in Africa's most populous country.