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From Intense Rejection to Advocacy: How Muslim Clerics Were Engaged in a Polio Eradication Initiative in Northern Nigeria

Citation: 
Nasir S-G, Aliyu G, Yau I, Gadanya M, Mohammad M, et al. (2014) From Intense Rejection to Advocacy: How Muslim Clerics Were Engaged in a Polio Eradication Initiative in Northern Nigeria. PLoS Med 11(8): e1001687. doi:10.1371/journal.pmed.1001687
Abstract / Summary: 
SUMMARY POINTS - Of the several setbacks suffered by the polio eradication initiative in Nigeria, vaccination rejection by Muslim clerics (imams) is perhaps the most profound. - Anti-polio propaganda, misconceptions, and violence against vaccinators at the community level present huge challenges to polio eradication in Nigeria and globally. - However, the intense opposition to polio vaccination is systematically being reversed by the active engagement of imams to promote uptake of polio vaccination in areas worst hit by the disease. - A coalition campaign involving imams, Islamic school teachers, traditional rulers, doctors, journalists, and polio survivors is gradually turning the tide against polio vaccine rejection in northern Nigeria. - Innovative engagement and the coalition campaign at the community level should be part of the focus of the polio eradication initiative in Nigeria.    
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Selected extracts: 

'Before the allegations of polio vaccine contamination a decade ago, Nigeria's polio eradication initiative (PEI) was affected by traditional barriers such as inadequate funds, poor coverage, poor supervision, broken cold chains, and lack of community mobilization and ownership. However, after the allegations of contamination of the vaccine with HIV, carcinogens, and sterilizing agents, the program was completely halted in some states [1-3], leading to the reversal of gains made in the global PEI. Following this program interruption, infection reemerged in 20 countries in which the polio virus had been previously eradicated [4­6]. Subsequently, religious,  safety, and fertility concerns became the main barriers to polio vaccination in most of northern Nigeria'

"A coalition campaign involving imams, Islamic school teachers, traditional rulers, doctors, journalists, and polio survivors is gradually turning the tide against polio vaccine rejection in northern Nigeria... This campaign demonstrates that traditional leaders in Nigeria could be relied upon to mobilize religious clerics, who in turn educated and mobilized the community."

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Nasir S-G, Aliyu G, Yau I, Gadanya M, Mohammad M, et al. 

Year published: 
2014
Month published: 
August