Polio vaccination campaign targets 40 million children in Nigeria

Sat May 14, 6:17 PM ET

Nigeria, home to the world's largest remaining pocket of polio, launched a massive vaccination campaign for 40 million children, a United Nations spokesperson said.

"The vaccination operation will start today and last until May 17 with 45 million doses for at 40 million children," said the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) spokeswoman in Nigeria, adding that this was the third such campaign this year.

But the programme, which is being conducted with assistance of UNICEF and the World Health Organisation (WHO), has faced resistance from Muslim families, who fear a plot to sterilise infant girls.

Katsina State officials in northern Nigeria have warned they will jail any parents who refuse to allow health workers to vaccinate their children against the crippling polio virus.

Nigeria has almost two-thirds of the cases of polio in the world -- 788 infants were paralysed by the crippling disease last year, more than twice as many as in 2003 -- and is the main target for a global eradication campaign.

Poliomyelitis is a highly contagious, incurable viral infection of the nervous system which can cause crippling paralysis or even death within hours of infection.

At its peak, polio paralyzed and killed up to half a million people every year, before Jonas Salk invented a vaccine in 1955.


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