By BARBARA KALU -Rotary Club International has expressed fears that the recent vaccination scare in parts of Nigeria may affect the achievements already recorded in the fight to eradicate polio in the country.
Rotary’s concern coincided with the lamentation by President Muhammadu Buhari about the activities those he accused of choosing to deploy disinformation and fake news as a weapon of choice.
“ First, they created unnecessary panic in the society by claiming that Monkey Pox
resulted from the Federal Government’s deliberate injection of people with the virus in certain states,” President Buhari said at the opening of conference for media handlers of state governors in the country, organized by the Nigerian Governors’ Forum (NGF).
The president, who was represented at the event by his Minister of Information and Culture, Lai Mohmmed, regretted that his government had hardly dispelled false news about the monkey pox virus inject when those behind it “claimed that the military, which is going beyond the call of duty to support the civilian populace, has been injecting school children with Monkey Pox, forcing many parents across a number of states to withdraw their children from school for days.
“Imagine the implication of this on the affected children’s education and health. Now, the disinformation is that ahead of the forthcoming election in Anambra, the government has been providing IPOB uniform to some people to cause mayhem, so they can in turn blame IPOB, and that many roads leading to Anambra will be closed before and after the elections, hence they advised Anambra residents to stay at home and not come out for the election. This is all disinformation, pure and simple. There is no such plan,” President Buhari declared.
The Chairman, Nigeria National Polio Plus Committee of Rotary International, Dr Tunji Funsho, expressed the fear while addressing journalists at a pre-World Polio Day press conference on Monday in Awka.
He said that the recent scares were retrogressive signs as it was capable of hindering successes already made in polio in the country.
“The recent rumour of the killer vaccination occurred while Rotary was carrying out house to house vaccination on children in the North.
“There was the need to properly educate the public as anything short of this may lead to the return of polio,’’ he said.
He said that rotary was not a religious or ethnic group, but consisted of people with strong passion for the health of children.
Funsho expressed happiness that for 14 months, there had been no case of polio in the country, while assuring that the oral polio vaccine was safe, efficient and easy to administer, and urged mothers to ignore the rumour of killer vaccinations.
“We are making efforts to reach every child, but we know there may be children somewhere we are missing, but we are working to ensure we reach all,’’ he said.
He said that Rotary would be saving more between 40 to 50 billion dollars if polio was eradicated, adding that the problem was also costing a lot on man hours, human and material resources.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports that the four districts of Rotary in Nigeria have chosen District 9142, comprising five states – South East, Cross River and Akwa Ibom as host for this year’s World Polio Day.
NAN also reports that the event will hold in Uyo, Awka on Oct. 24.
Dr Emma Ude-Akpeh, the governor of District 9142, who also spoke at the conference, said it was a thing of joy that his district had for years not registered any case of polio.
He urged all Rotarian in the district to come out en masse in the awareness exercise and advised mothers and guardians to avail themselves of the opportunity for the routine immunisation.
(with additional report from NAN)