Confessions of a Quackbuster

This blog deals with healthcare consumer protection, and is therefore about quackery, healthfraud, chiropractic, and other forms of so-Called "Alternative" Medicine (sCAM).

Thursday, August 18, 2005

ABC News: Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Plagues Nigeria

Anti-Vaccine Sentiment Plagues Nigeria

Islamic Preachers' Rejection of Vaccines Threaten Efforts to Combat Measles Epidemic in Nigeria

By OLOCHE SAMUEL Associated Press Writer
The Associated Press

KANO, Nigeria Mar 27, 2005 — Accusations by Islamic preachers that vaccines are part of an American anti-Islamic plot are threatening efforts to combat a measles epidemic that has killed hundreds of Nigerian children, health workers say.

Government officials play down the anti-vaccine sentiment, but all the measles deaths have been in Nigeria's north, where authorities had to suspend polio immunizations last year after hard-line clerics fanned similar fears of that vaccine.

Nigeria, whose 130 million people make it Africa's most populous nation, has recorded 20,859 measles cases so far this year. At least 589 victims have died, most of them children younger than 5 and all in the north, the Nigerian Red Cross and the U.N. World Health Organization say.

Southern Nigeria, which is mainly Christian, had only 253 measles cases, and no deaths.

Health services are much better in the south. But the anti-vaccination sentiment in the north, evident from interviews with parents, seems to be a factor.

"Since the polio controversy, I have not presented any of my children for immunization because my husband said I should not," said Ramatou Mohammed, who was at Abdullahi Wase Hospital seeking treatment for her baby, Miriam, for a measles rash.

"I heard on the radio that the vaccine was contaminated. I still don't trust any vaccine," the 28-year-old mother of four added.

Her views were echoed by others in the waiting room at the hospital in Kano, which is in the worst-hit state, with nearly 7,000 cases, including 155 deaths, since Jan. 1.

In 2003, Islamic clerics claimed the United States was using polio vaccine to sterilize Muslims or contaminate them with the AIDS virus. They ordered a boycott in messages disseminated from mosques, in radio broadcasts and by door-to-door campaigning.

The U.S. Embassy called the claims "absolutely ridiculous."

But three powerful state governors in the north joined the polio boycott, and it dragged on 11 months before authorities persuaded the governors in July to accept vaccine bought from the predominantly Muslim nation of Indonesia.