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Why Nigeria ought not to have been declared polio-free —Health Minister

Health Minister, Professor Isaac Adewole, has refuted polio resurgence claim in Nigeria, saying Nigeria ought not to have  even been declared polio free by WHO in July because some parts of the country were inaccessible to polio vaccination in the last five years.

Adewole, who stated this at the commissioning of a new USAID sponsored modular polio laboratory at the University of Ibadan on Friday, said, “what we should have said scientifically is that the area of Nigeria that is free and accessible is polio-free.”

According to the Minister, “the four polio cases were detected in areas that we have no control over before. These are places that had no access to medical care, including vaccination, in the last five years.

“There was no way they could be vaccinated and as such had no immunity and so it was not really a surprise that we picked polio among them.”

The minister stated that the polio cases were neither indicative of a failure of the polio eradication campaign nor a setback but a wakeup call that polio virus transmission in Nigeria and indeed Africa must be stopped.

Adewole, who appreciated the military’s stride to recover areas under insurgency, provide protection for health workers and support the movement of materials and personnel for immunisation services, was optimistic that Nigeria, including Africa, might be polio-free by 2017.

US Consul General, John Bray, declared that health initiatives in Nigeria were US government’s priority, adding that over half of USAID’s budget in Nigeria is spent on health.

Bray remarked that the modular polio laboratory was USA’s tangible way to make a difference in people’s lives and improve Nigerians’ health status.

He added that polio response within a complex security environment and humanitarian emergency in northeast Nigeria called for innovative approaches and the widening of traditional partnership.

WHO’s representative, Dr Fiona Braca, in her remarks, said that the modular laboratory was also an asset to diagnosis and control of other viral infections like measles, rubella and yellow fever.

She also pledge WHO’s continued support towards achieving polio free status and certification in the Africa region.