Johannesburg — Radical Muslims claim a western plot to cause HIV/AIDS
NIGERIA has ordered independent tests on polio vaccines used in the country following a widespread boycott of immunisation because of claims that the vaccines make people infertile and pass the HIV virus that causes AIDS.
The UN Integrated Regional Information Networks (Irin) reports from Abuja that an aide to Vice President Abubakar Atiku said government had opted for fresh laboratory investigations of the vaccines, to assure Nigerians the vaccines were safe.
The decision followed a meeting between Abubakar and officials of UN agencies involved in the immunisation effort, he said.
A four-day national immunisation exercise that ended on Monday did not take place in three states in Nigeria's mainly Muslim north.
The states of Zamfara and Kaduna suspended it while Kano state deferred the exercise until January steps that centred on fears propagated by Muslim radicals that mass vaccinations were part of a western plot to curb population growth by making people infertile and spreading HIV.
The UN resident coordinator, Teggenework Gettu, and UN Children's Fund (Unicef) country representative Ezio Murzi, met Atiku on Monday to express their concern and seek government intervention to end the "impasse around vaccine safety," Unicef said in a statement.
It said the campaign against the oral polio vaccine in northern Nigeria had resulted in many children missing immunisation, leading to a resurgence of the virus which was paralysing more children.
"The communities are stranded awaiting a clear communication from the political leadership," Unicef said, adding that government support was needed to initiate dialogue with religious and traditional leaders to allay the suspicions.
It identified Kano state as the global "epicentre of the wild polio virus", from where cases have been exported to several neighbouring West African countries and other parts of Nigeria where the virus had previously been eliminated.
"Continued circulation of the polio virus in Nigeria puts the children of the sub-region and the continent at risk," said the statement.
AP reports that international health officials described the allegations about the vaccine as ridiculous.