needs a rethink...

sometime ago, i wrote on the recent rise of the polio epidemic in the north and its inextricable link to the 1996 Pfizer drug company scandal.  as a result of the unethical practices undertaken by Pfizer during that time period, many northerners to this day remain wary of immunization campaigns, and understandably so.

the mysterious aftermath of the Pfizer scandal and the very real possibility that some communities are still perceived to be susceptible to be used as human guinea pigs (please see Naapali's comment on that post) has caused many parents of Plateau state to refuse the polio vaccine for their children.  the health minister of the state, Dr. Angela Miri in response has called for punitive measures against parents who refuse to have their children vaccinated stating that the behavior of such parents is "very shameful and uncalled for."

while i acknowledge that the vaccination of children against the life-crippling polio is critical to its ultimate eradication, i have to disagree agree with the approach of health officials in Plateau state.  The abuse of northerners in the name of medicine was a very real event and so far no measures have been put in place to prevent a repeat of 1996 meningitis trials.

i think health officials would further their cause by first acknowledging the legitimate fears of the Plateau state parents.  i am very sure that the parents of Plateau state are looking out for the best interest of their families in light of a system that fails to protect them from internal and external medical/scientific exploitation.  in acknowledging those fears, the government should then proceed to address them - possibly educating the public on how to avoid being "419'ed" by multi-national drug companies and the like.  then, as was done in the past, work with religious and community figures in convincing parents of the need to vaccinate their children.

Of course I came up with this while eating dinner, so it is not the most well-thought out course of action.  but i think simply punishing Plateau state parents because in their perceived best interests for their children refuse vaccines serves as a temporary bandage on an ever-festering wound.


  1. Jaycee said...:

    For someone who was eating while outlining her thoughts towards how the polio vaccine and the pfizer scandal has negatively affected the mind-set of parents in Plateau State, this article was really good. It was also informative as I didn't know about this prior to reading this page.

    This is irrelevant to this post, but I think this group needs you:

  1. nneoma said...:

    thanks....will check out the facebook group sometime

  1. SOLOMONSYDELLE said...:

    there are important traditional organizations whose influence can be used to change the attitude towards vaccination. However, we always think we can use brute force, insults and, as a last resort, money, to overpower others.

    It also doesn't help that certain influential figured continue to fan the anti-vaccination flames merely as a means to remain significant.

    There is an ongoing discussion about poverty in the North. It's been ongoing for a while, but i remember reading a speech given by theSultan of Sokoto/Emir of kaduna who actually criticized northern leaders for failing to serve the people. I had to respect him for taking the time to touch on a sensitive subject. The conversation continues with SOludo talking about poverty and others discussing how to eliminate poverty in the north. Ultimately, education is the key and would help the North and in fact the entire nation and maybe bring an end to polio and other diseases.

    Nice post. Hope all is well.

  1. anonymaus said...:

    This whole vaccination issue, is another tragic example of the government not taking it's responsibilities seriously. Health care is not treated properly by the government. This can be readily seen by the fact that whenever anyone (who can afford it) has a scratch on their skin, before you can say the alphabet, they are on a plane abroad for medical treatment. Why? Because they know there is no effective health care system in the country.

    If Nigeria can't handle health care properly, why can't they look around the world at countries that have done a infinitely better job. If they are too embarrassed to ask the UK (after having so many health professionals trained there), for help what about Cuba. They are not rich, but their health care is on a par with that of developed nations.

    There are a number of issues regarding vaccinations.

    1) There should be a proper system in place that is adhered to throughout all the states of the federation. People who can't follow such practices or take their responsibilities seriously should be removed.

    The Pfizer episode is an example of the Nigerian authorities not doing their job. If health officials were serious such disasters would never happen.

    2) In the northern section of the country where, religious leaders can make all sorts of questionable claims that no one dares challenge for fear of being killed. People have to learn to question such claims, in other words ask for proof, which should be allowed to be scrutinised. Just because you are a religious scholar doesn't mean everything you say is true, right and correct. Everyone is capable of making mistakes. This has been taken by some as queue to shirk their responsibility for having their children vaccinated.

    3) The case of parents in Plateau state witholding their children from dodgy vaccines, is understandable.

    This shouldn't be dealt with at a state level but at a federal level. An all encompassing plan should be rolled out to all the states, which should be adhered to. The issue has gone beyond populations in various states opting out of vaccinations.

    The populace should be informed about what went wrong in the past and what has been put in place to prevent a recurrence of such events in the future. Influential people from various communities should be gathered together and told the importance of vaccinations and community participation and should go back and spread the news. Once this has been done, start the vaccination campaigns across the country.

    Formal procedures for vaccination should be followed, the vaccines should be administered by local staff who should be supervised by state officials. Local populations should be given notice as to when to expect the staff.

    Sorry about the length.

  1. Hi Nneoma, Please could you email me ur emaill add at or leave it on my sorry i lost the last one.

    Nice post by the way, as usual you have left me better informed than I was yesterday.

  1. TheAfroBeat said...:

    Thanks for sharing this. It's terrible how easily people forget the past. These people have been exploited in one of the worst ways ever - by rich drug companies exploiting their parental acts of love for their children - and then lawmakers are so quick to put this aside (Except when it comes to filing lawsuits to line their pockets). It's a shame that now these families are so distrusting of the system (hell, i would be too!), that they're now putting their children's lives at risk. I agree with you and solo that perhaps working via traditional and religious organizations, the state can convince these parents to vaccinate their children, rather than seeking to punish them into obedience.

    Hope you're doing well, school/life and all. Happy Labor Day!