Risk Communication: The Over-Looked Factor in the Nigeria Polio Immunization Boycott Crisis

  • L Agbeyegbe


The 2003 - 2004 polio vaccination boycotts in Nigeria threatened the global polio eradication initiative of having a polio-free world by 2005. Encouraged by the global eradication of smallpox from the world in 1980, World Health Organization (WHO) launched the Global Polio Eradication Initiative in 1988 seeking to eradicate polio from the world by the year 2000. In 2003, some Nigerian states boycotted national polio vaccination campaigns threatening the impending success of the global eradication initiative. By the end of 2003, Nigeria accounted for 45% of all global cases of polio and 70% of all cases in 2004. Within ten months, twelve polio free countries confirmed polio cases resulting from a poliovirus genetically linked to that endemic in Northern Nigeria. The situation appeared to have been fully resolved when Kano the last state holding out resumed polio vaccination in July 2004. However, some concerns remained. This paper considers the question on the safety of the vaccine and the role of religion in the boycott. It seeks to show that although the boycott is no longer in effect; low participation during vaccination may persist reflecting a failure to implement risk communication.

The Nigerian Medical Practitioner Vol. 51 (3) 2007: pp. 40-44

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