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Nigeria’s president squeezed drops of polio vaccine into babies’ mouths today in a heavily Muslim state where officials have previously banned the inoculations, fearing they were part of a supposed U.S. plot to render Nigerian girls infertile.
UN officials said the move by President Olusegun Obasanjo to administer vaccines to five toddlers at a clinic in northern Zamfara state’s capital, Gusau, was a sign that a massive six-month polio vaccine boycott was eroding in Nigeria’s predominantly Islamic north, the global epicentre of the potentially crippling disease.
Zamfara officials have not explained why they rescinded their ban on the vaccines. The reversal leaves neighbouring Kano the only Nigerian state still rejecting the anti-polio campaign.
The government of the northern Nigerian state of Kano on Wednes-day again rejected the oral polio vaccine promoted by UN health agencies, a spokesman said, despite a decision by the country's federal administration to throw its weight behind a UN inoculation drive.
A spokesman for Kano, the region at the heart of the world's fastest growing outbreak of the crippling polio virus, said that the state's governor and traditional Islamic leader had met with local experts to review evidence gathered about the UN vaccine and concluded once again that it was laced with anti-fertility agents.