Prominent ANTI-OPV cleric turns pro-immununization campaigner in Borno State

 Islamic scholar assisting with Vaccination
Islamic scholar assisting with Vaccination

Polio supplemental immunization activities (SIAs) have been met with stiff resistance in 478 quranic (Tsangaya) schools in the security-compromised state of Borno due to an array of reasons which deduced Immunization as a western ploy to check the growth of muslim population and fear that non-compliant parents may withdraw their children from schools that allow immunization

To ameliorate the danger that the risk of continued non-compliance portends to the susceptible eligible children, the WHO team in Borno mapped-out and sensitized teachers from the identified schools with a view to inform   them about immunization and benefits therein and, to the extent required, also explain the risks of disease which result from withholding immunization. Impressively, many hard-core non- compliant teachers were converted to the side of immunization and are now actively involved in mobilizing even the wider society to accept immunization.

One of those teachers is Mallam Goni Madu who had a history of persistent non-compliance and had staunchly rejected polio vaccination for his pupils and family members since the inception of the PEI programme in the state, metamorphosed into a positive force for polio vaccination following the sensitization meeting he attended along with 146 other qur’anic school teachers in Maiduguri prior to the March 2014 IPDs with funding from WHO.

Mallam Modu who personally invited key WHO officers to his school to witness the vaccination exercise of all eligible children attributed his previous stance on rejection of the polio vaccine to lack of understanding of the benefits of immunization and the consequence of rejecting the vaccine to the wellbeing of children. He said ‘I deeply regret my attitude to polio vaccine in the past. From now on, you can count on me as of your goodwill ambassador. I sincerely hope my actions in the past have not caused any child to suffer any form of illness. I truly thank Allah for the sensitization. It was an eye opener’.

Meantime, the WHO office in Borno plans to scale-up the sensitization of quranic teachers as one of the demand creation interventions for reaching chronically missed children due to insecurity or non-compliance for as the State Coordinator, Dr. Mahmud Saidu observed that ‘ the success of the sensitization requires we scale up the process to not only create but also sustain genuine community demand’. He further maintained ‘this is one of the strategic ways to interrupt the transmission of polio and curtail the threat of vaccine-preventable diseases among vulnerable children’.

For the April round of IPDs, WHO and other GPEI partners in Borno state targeted 98 non-complaint tsangaya schools with 2189 eligible children for immunization. This will be in addition to the provision of other health interventions such as establishment of eighty (80) health camps in communities with stiff resistance to polio vaccination.