UN hails Nigerian polio immunization campaign after controversial suspension

Immunization campaigns were suspended in August 2003 in various northern states of Africa’s most populous country following concerns by public figures regarding the safety of oral polio vaccine (OPV), including rumours that it was contaminated by the HIV virus or that it could sterilize young girls.This led to the spread of the disease to 10 previously polio-free African countries, threatening efforts by the UN-backed Global Polio Eradication Initiative, a 16-year-old mass immunization programme, to totally eliminate the disease. Kano was the last state to lift the suspension in July in this nation of nearly 140 million people.In the new campaign thousands of volunteers and health-workers will go door to door, house to house, village to village from 20 to 23 November, seeking to immunize all children aged five or under, at the same time as 22 other countries in Africa holding synchronized National Immunization Days.”Since 1988 when the eradication initiative was begun, polio held sway in more than 125 countries, paralyzing 1,000 children every day,” UNICEF Representative Ezio Murzi said.”Today, UNICEF, WHO (UN World Health Organization), Rotary International and its national partners such as NPI (Nigeria’s National Programme on Immunization) have slashed polio cases by more than 99 per cent; from 1,000 cases per day to 1,000 cases per year.”Due to the suspensions transmission of the wild poliovirus has significantly increased from 355 cases in 19 Nigerian states in 2003 to 682 cases in 31 states today. Poliovirus can travel from village to village and country to country through un-immunized children. One un-immunized child anywhere puts children at risk everywhere.

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