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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 13:19 GMT
Are fears over polio vaccine valid?
Nigerian child being immunised
Polio has reappeared in northern Nigeria and neighbouring countries

The World Health Organisation (WHO) is accusing Nigeria of frustrating efforts to eradicate polio.

Muslim clerics in northern Nigeria stopped the immunisation programme in three states last year saying the polio vaccines were contaminated with contraceptives.

Since then, cases of polio cases have reappeared there and spread to neighbouring countries, Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Ghana and Togo.

The WHO maintains that extensive scientific tests have been carried to ensure the vaccines are safe.

The BBC's Africa Live asks: are those fears by the religious leaders valid?

Are they right to question the safety of the vaccine or are they playing politics with people's lives?

Do you think Africans are being used as guinea pigs for drugs that have been rejected elsewhere?

Join the BBC's Africa Live debate Wednesday, 21 January at 1630 & 1830GMT.

Use the form to send us your comments, some of which will be published below.

If you would like to take part in the discussion, e-mail us with your telephone number, which will not be published.

Your comments:

I think vaccines brought to africa should be tested before being administered. But before then the following questions should be answered to the understading of an average northern Nigerian. Why has the US stopped the usage of oral immunization on its citizens but encourage the use of the same in third world countries ? Why has there been a tremendous pressure on our government and people to accept the vaccines, whereas no attempt is made to invent vaccines that will cure malaria, typhod and AIDS, the three main killers in Africa? Untill answers are given to these questions, northern Nigeria will think the West has a hidden agenda to depopulate its people.
Nnamdi Nwaubani Kaduna state, Nigeria

This is pure politics. It is a pity that innocent children are the unfortunate victims. The clerics should substantiate their claims, which in my view are being made more out of their legendary and eternal hatred for the West than anything else. I concede that they have a right to ask WHO to explain what is being fed to their children. But it is criminal to let innocent children die just because some people want to satisfy their political standing. All vaccines have side effects. Am no medical expert but surely that is obvious. In any case why would the WEST seek to wipe the Moslem population in West Africa only? Sounds absurd to me.
Pacharo Kayira, Malawi

One of the biggest problems is that the WHO has not come out openly as a strong force in the country. Looking through the Nigerian dailies, I continue to see a conspicuous absence of WHO voice on the matter. We Nigerians are bombarded daily with negative depictions of our country by the global media. Why should there be any reason to trust outsiders who so openly attack us as a people?
Lola, US/Nigeria

I wish to contribute on this issue of Africans shunning Western medical assistance, especially and notably in Nigeria. Do you remember during the apartheid era in South Africa, the then President of white-led Government Peter Botha? He instructed his intelligence to exterminate the blacks by using hospitals as a focal point of his clandestine idea. These memories still exist in the minds of most blacks in Africa, that is why they will never trust any medical assistance from Western countries. At the moment in our country Zambia, it is rumoured that Aids contaminated condoms are being distributed in Africa.
Aubrey Chindefu, Zambia.

Poor people should be made to pay for the vacinne then they will appreciate it's true value. many poor people think that if they do not pay for something then it must be bad.if they are made to pay for it then the will appreciate the contribution of others.
Lisa Akoth, Kenya

In africa, anything free is greeted with suspicion. Free condoms are said to be laced with Aids virus, free polio vaccines are said to contain the Aids virus, and contraceptives too...all aimed at eradicating blacks with the eventual take over of the continent by the whites. These are political games, to the detriment of the innocent kids, these shoddy politics must stop!
Harrahs Malinda, Kenya/Germany

It is sad to see the religious leaders of that region condemning the people, especially the children, to life threatening diseases based on nothing more than rumor. Clerics, priests, pastors of all religions should confine themselves to guiding the people spiritually, leave health matters to doctors, and political matters to politicians.
Wayne, USA

And we all wonder why our people have remained mired in abject poverty and misery...
UE, UK/Nigeria

Please tell WHO for me that if these people don't want to get vaccinated, then let them be. Nigeria is a very big country with different diverse groups, let them go to the East, South and West of Nigeria and give these vaccines. They will be accepted with open arms.
Ebuzoaju Ejimadu, UK

To Ebuzoaju, the problem with polio and other infectious diseases is that they have the ability to cross geographic areas with the movement of people from one area to another. Not immunizing the northern part of the country puts children in all parts of the country at risk of getting the disease. Besides, we are talking about children here. We should not leave them to suffer because their parents made poor decisions on their behalf. Every effort to restore confidence in the program should be encouraged.
Patricia, Nigeria

The clerics cannot prove their claims. Why would they really restrict access to these drugs? maintain control no matter who suffers or whatever the cost.
Charles , Montreal, Canada

These hysterical and irresponsible comments by religious leaders are not only criminal but a fundamental violation of the rights of children in northern Nigeria to have access to universal health care.
Rabiatu Balewa, UK

I am from Kano and I know how the people feel about this mess. The last time a multinational corporation 'helped' people in Kano, several people were killed because the drugs used were in the trial phase. What has changed, people will ask? I think this case is different. The polio vaccines are declared safe by Hausa-Muslim doctors. So, in the interest of the children, the vaccination exercise must continue.
M AY, Nigeria/USA

This will not be happening if the masses were empowered intellectually. No wonder religious leaders and opinion leaders in some parts of Africa easily manipulate the less educated. A rigorous campaign needs to be taken to educate the masses. Education is the easiest way out!!
Maxwell Eyram Afari, Ghanaian in Brazil

It is unfortunate that the political leaders of nations use those who are helpless in order to further their own political policies. These leaders should be ashamed that they would keep the people infirm and poor just so that they can keep power.
Michael, USA

Let's not be hasty in condemning the clerics and Nigerian government. Governments and social leaders do have the RIGHT and OBLIGATION to question the safety of vaccinations they are supposed to administer to their citizens, especially when the safety was not explained to them by the appropriate bodies. The polio vaccine controversy shows the inability of the Nigerian government and the WHO in conveying appropriate vaccination messages to the Nigerian public. In addition, as the BBC's interview with the son of the man who invented the Polio vaccine showed, the particular vaccination being administered seems to have problems (it seems to have the opposite effect than intended). Also, given the recent Lancet report on WHO's failure to provide effective malaria vaccine to the point of condemning some Africans to death just to save some money, makes the concern of the Nigerian clerics and other African governments very valid. WHO has to show Africans, and other developing nations, it is not a puppet of the West but an organization for the poor.
Banchi Dessalegn, Ethiopian in U.S

There is no more trust in the so-called scientists deciding on which vaccine to give to the world population. In the US, 50% of the Center of Disease Control (CDC) have patents on vaccines they recommend or lucrative ties to the vaccine manufacturers. Side effects of vaccines are never revealed or is downplayed. The WHO and other heath organinations better disclose their interests and ties to the drug manufactueres before deciding on mandatory vaccinations. Parents worldwide are not ignorant and should be told of all the additives injected with the vaccines. Give the parents all the details and let them decide.
Saadedine Tebbal, USA

Haven't you people heard about AIDS? They told us it was a small pox vaccine, and now you know the rest.
Bahati , Tanzania

Such fears arise where there is mistrust.The muslims do not trust thier country leaders. I dont think Africa is being used as dumping site for rejected drugs. In my country we have locally made generics which from my own experince are equally good. Furthermore, before any drug is introduced into the market it has to be registered with pharmacy and poison board of Kenya where it is throughly tested and analysed.
Esther, Kenya

The comments of Ebuzoaju Ejimadu, UK, shows that there is a widespread ignorance of the causes and effects of polio and other infectious diseases; and that education must play a key part in overcoming peoples' fears and prejudices. If those clerics truly believe that the vaccines are unsafe then their duty is to warn communities of their fears. However, this should be based upon sound scientific reasoning and not just anti American/ Western feelings of hatred and mistrust. It is not the clerics that suffer from these decisions but today's innocent children and future generations.
Danny Diamond, England

It is really unfortunate such outrageous things continue to happen in Africa. When clerics caucus around and think that they can muster support for their overzealous actions by opposing government efforts to combat a terrible disease, it just makes me sad. I feel sorry for these poor children of Africa who have no other person to turn to. Tomorrow, these same clerics will blame fundamentalism on inequality when they are the very ones at the root of this fate. Shame on them.
Godwill Tachi, USA/Cameroon

This question should be left to WHO and other health experts whether polio vaccines are safe or not. Religious leaders and politicians have nothing to do with health, let them not confuse or mislead the public. But I believe people will not listen to them because they are not doctors.
Peter Tuach, US

I remember how my schoolmates and I were vaccinated in school when we were small. These days, as an adult, I wonder what side effects I'll suffer in 10 or 20 years. So much bad has been done to us Africans in the past, now it is very wise to question this 'help'.
Wambui, Kenya

I was impressed by the sensible and reasonable comments made by a public health doctor in Northern Nigeria on the BBC recently. Of course they were right to have their fears allayed. WHO is not always the good Samaritan it is portrayed to be and African governments have a right, nay a duty, to be careful of programmes meant to do good. When I worked in a certain Middle Eastern country a few years ago we immunised babies and children with a very safe oral polio vaccine. I am sure that if the same one were made available to Nigeria there would be no qualms about giving it to the children. They should be applauded for their concern, it shows that they are awake and alert.
Yolande Agble, Ghana

With the revelations by the WHO that countries like America are continuing to press for the use of drugs that are not effective in fighting malaria, I now see the point in Africans being skeptical about those vaccines. Whoever is involved in the immunisation programmes ought to come out and assure us that the drugs are indeed free from any harmful substances. Anything less than this will only serve to raise apathy for anything from the west.
Okurut Joseph, Uganda.

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