Minister of State for Health, Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate
* Union to honour slain vaccinators
By Patrick Ugeh
Irked by Prof. Haruna Kaita of the Faculty of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria, alleged claim that the oral polio vaccine was contaminated, the federal government Monday urged Nigerians to stand up against his efforts to keep Nigeria behind in the war to eradicate polio.
Nigeria is only one of about four countries worldwide where the disease is still found and efforts to exterminate it have been hampered by disinformation in the core north where the oral polio vaccines administered routinely around the nation to keep the children from being crippled for life are being portrayed as aimed at controlling the population in that part of the country.
Seven health workers in Kano on February 8, while carrying out polio vaccination exercise.
Kaita’s anti-polio vaccine campaign was reignited online at the weekend by the social media, when the professor allegedly cried out that his life was threatened because he was questioned by the State Security Service (SSS).
Kaita’s purported research was allegedly carried out under the aegis of the Jamatul Nasril Islam (JNI), which sponsored him to India for the test.
Fielding questions from THISDAY on the issue, the Minister of Health, through his Minister of State, Dr. Mohammed Ali Pate, denied any contamination in the vaccine, saying if it was not safe, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Mohammed Sa’ad Abubakar III, and himself would not endorse it for usage, neither would President Goodluck Jonathan okay it.
Pate said Islam had nothing to do with the vaccine used in Nigeria, as elsewhere, because Islamic states like Niger and Egypt had already eliminated polio, using the same vaccine.
He said if Kaita was serious about the outcome of his “research”, he should have subjected it to peer-review and follow all the processes necessary before any scientific finding of at nature was made public.
The minister added that even if the vaccine had any side effect, it shouldn’t be enough to discredit it in its entirety.
“People are conflating what happened 50 to 60 years ago with where we have now. The rest of the world has moved on. The choice is for Nigeria whether we want to go with the majority, with progress and development or we want to go back and stick to conspiracy theories without evidence to support them.
“My advice as a Nigerian to all Nigerians is to take on those that are claiming scientific expertise without meeting up to standards of science. And, we should also enlighten our people that this vaccine is safe,” he added.
Pate stated further that: “Polio is one significant or topical issue in the global health space. The idea now is to eradicate the disease and other viral diseases; and small pox is one, guinea is another disease that was supposed to be eradicated. It was not as wide-spread as polio. In 2003, when the controversy started in Nigeria, there were six countries that had not eradicated it. Niger was one, Egypt was another; then India, Pakistan, Afghanistan and Nigeria.
“Almost six years later, Niger has already eradicated the disease. Egypt has done it; India has already done it. So, the world has moved 98 percent to the end of polio.”
According to him, even in this country, four years ago, there were 27 states that had cases of polio paralysing children. As we speak, there are 22 states that have not recorded polio in almost three years. Most of our local governments have been polio-free. So, the disease has been localized.
“Most Nigerians accept polio vaccines and immunise their children. That is part of the progress we have made. The Professor that was mentioned, I think he might have been well-intentioned 10 years ago according to the research he did. As far as I know, no recent research has been done on that. But, beyond that, the vaccine has been used all over the world, more than ten billion doses.”
For that reason, he said the empirical evidence to say that it was not safe was uncalled for.
“Unfortunately, the level of academic standard has become variable. In some places, it has been preserved, in some areas, it may have gone bad. People can make claim without evidence, without peer review, without publishing research in a paper of repute to make it become a subject of discourse.
“In other climes that have developed scientific research and academia, there are standards. Mediocrity is disallowed; there are standards for everything and ethics for research. If you do your research, it is subjected to peer-review; it is published in scientific publications.