By Chinyere Amalu
Abdulslam Abubakar, 45 stood vehemently by the door shielding his five -year- old child when he sighted a team of vaccinators coming towards his house.Â As they approach closer to his house, Abdulslam shoutedÂ â€œNo, I will not watch you poison my child with that medicine ofÂ yours. I donâ€™t like it, he said dragging Kabri, his child into his house.
The Vaccinators were astonished atÂ Abdulsalamâ€™s reaction. One of theÂ aggressive vaccinators quickly rushed to the child and held him back from Abdulslam and said to him â€œNo sir, we bring you peace and good healthâ€ Unfortunately, these soft words fell on deaf ears as he forcefully dragged the child into the house.
This, aptly captures the scenarios in most communities across the states in the North during the April immunisation excercise.
In Gombe State where Good Health Weekly visited during the April immunization exercise and otherÂ States in the North like; Bauchi, Yobe, Adamawa, etc, although there are still problems accepting theÂ Oral Polio vaccine, current statistics in Gombe, show that the non-compliance level has dropped from 9 per cent in 2009 to 2 per centÂ in 2010, with no record of polio in the last five months.
However, the campaign for immunization exercise mounted more forcefully by the Gombe State Government in the last couple of years has shown a drastic changes on the level of acceptance. This was also displayed during the last exercise.Â Inspite of these efforts, some parents in the State still refuse their children from taking the vaccine.
According to the Director Primary Healthcare service in Gombe State, Dr. Kumangh Nuhu, Gombe has the best ever mobilization team in the Northern States and the structures in place resulted to the drop in the non-compliance level.
â€œIn Gombe State, the issue ofÂ mobilization campaign is very strong. The mobilization team are doing very well. This is because there are already existing structures on ground for social mobilization. Last year we were able to come out with social mobilization committee and they are doing very wellâ€, Nuhu stated.
Again, the few who still remained adamant have their own reasons, which is not unconnected with their belief.
Good Health Weekly came in contact with a 50 years old Musa in Pantami ward in Gombe LGA who operates a borehole in one of the settlements in the ward. He threatened to beat up a female vaccinator should the lady come closer to his three children to administer vaccine.
â€œIt is not by force that my children are given the medicine. You can see that they are in good health, we donâ€™t need it. If you come closer to my children again, I will beat you upâ€, he threatened.
But the determined vaccinator simply identified as AishaÂ snapped back and said â€œAm just trying to do my work. I donâ€™t mean any harm. It is to protect your children from polioâ€
AnotherÂ vaccinator in Kuri ward in Yamaltu LGA of Gombe, Hajiah Yunguda, who spoke to Good Health Weekly on the challenges they are facing said most parents do not haveÂ cogent reason for refusing the vaccine but noted that some were expressing fears that the ink on their finger nails may result to other infections.
This reason alone, made some of them upon sightingÂ the vaccinators ran back into their houses.
But the Director of Primary Health services, Dr. Nuhu also have a different opinion, although he agreed that some have no reason to give, according to him, earlier controversies on acceptance ofÂ the vaccine created by eminent religious and traditional rulers are still hindering the success of the exercise.
â€œThe controversies championed by eminent and reputable traditional leaders on the acceptance of the vaccine in the past is still lingering. After the issue was resolved, these people did not advice their followers toÂ accept the vaccine, rather they kept quiet. When it comes to issue of religion, it is very difficult to change ones belief.â€ he said.
Aside from Gombe, other Northern States in Nigeria are faced with the challenges ofÂ non-compliance, which has resulted to miss children in each exercise, thereby by exposing them to the dangers of the virus.
However, the Federal Government has not relented in tackling the problem as it has, inaugurated Northern Leaders Committee on Polio Eradication as part of efforts to tackle the problem of non acceptance.
In the views of the Executive Director of Primary Health, Dr. Ali Pate, in 2009, Nigeria had almost 300 cases of children paralysed by the wild poliovirus.Â This year, so far,Â we have had only three cases. In 2009, there were 360 cases from January to June and 28 cases from July to December.
â€œReduction in non-compliance is largely due to increased understanding of importance and safely of vaccines by Traditional leaders in the north religious and political leaders in all parts of the country have contributed immensely to thisâ€, said Pate.
Non-compliance or not, the Federal government has said that polio would be stamped out by the end of 2010 in the country. This signifies that all hands must be on deck to ensure that the pockets of missed children in some of the settlements across the wards of the 774 LGAs in the country must be immunized before the third quarter.