‘You can’t be killing our brothers in Iraq and be giving us free vaccines in Nigeria’
Saturday, 20 April 2013
In this April 2013 report, Integrated Regional Information Networks (IRIN), a service of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA), reveals the various suspicions behind Northern Nigeria’s resistance to polio vaccination and other UN-sponsored health initiatives.
For years, polio vaccination has faced strong resistance within Islamic communities in northern Nigeria, largely due to a deep distrust of the West, persistent rumours that the vaccine is harmful, and the house-to-house approach taken by immunisation campaigners, which many saw as intrusive.
For years, there has been suspicion that the polio vaccine is laced with infertility hormones as part of a US-led plot to reduce the Muslim population. The Kano State government suspended polio immunisation between September 2003 and November 2004 following the spread of such rumours by some Muslim clerics. The suspension led to an unprecedented number of infections and transmission of the virus to 17 countries that had been polio-free.
Kano resident, Zulaihatu Mahmud, says most people understand polio is caused by a virus, but even so, she and others fear the vaccine could be harmful: “Nobody wants their child to be crippled by polio, and nobody wants their child to be sterile, either.”
In 2003, to address these concerns, the Kano State government and Federal Government set up committees of doctors and clerics to test the polio vaccine. Following trials in Nigeria, South Africa and Indonesia, they declared the vaccine safe. However, they also confirmed the presence of traces of two sex hormones – oestrogen and progesterone – that are used in contraceptive medicine, which reinforced the sterility rumours in some communities.
Sadiq Wali, a professor of medicine who was involved in the committee, explained that the vaccine is developed in a culture made of monkey kidney, which contains the two hormones. Since hormones are highly water-soluble, traces are bound to be found in the vaccine, but they are too minute to have a contraceptive impact, he said. The amounts are so infinitesimal that special equipment is needed to detect them.
A UNICEF campaign to vaccinate Nigeria's youth against polio may have been a front for sterilizing the nation. Dr. Haruna Kaita, a pharmaceutical scientist and Dean of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences of Ahmadu Bello University in Zaria, took samples of the vaccine to labs in India for analysis.
Using WHO-recommended technologies like Gas Chromatography (GC) and Radio-Immuno assay, Dr. Kaita, upon analysis, found evidence of serious contamination. "Some of the things we discovered in the vaccines are harmful, toxic; some have direct effects on the human reproductive system," he said in an interview with Kaduna's Weekly Trust. "I and some other professional colleagues who are Indians who were in the Lab could not believe the discovery," he said.
A Nigerian government doctor tried to persuade Dr. Kaita that the contaminants would have no bearing on human reproduction. "...I was surprised when one of the federal government doctors was telling me something contrary to what I have learned, studied, taught and is the common knowledge of all pharmaceutical scientists -- that estrogen cannot induce an anti-fertility response in humans," he said. "I found that argument very disturbing and ridiculous."
When asked by the Trust why Dr. Kaita felt the drug manufacturers would have contaminated the Oral Polio Vaccine, he gave three reasons: "These manufacturers or promoters of these harmful things have a secret agenda which only further research can reveal. Secondly they have always taken us in the third world for granted, thinking we don't have the capacity, knowledge and equipment to conduct tests that would reveal such contaminants. And very unfortunately they also have people to defend their atrocities within our midst, and worst still some of these are supposed to be our own professionals who we rely on to protect our interests."
Dr. Kaita is demanding that "those who imported this fake drug in the name of Polio Vaccines...be prosecuted like any other criminal."