LISTENING TO THE RUMOURS: WHAT THE NORTHERN NIGERIA POLIO VACCINE BOYCOTT CAN TELL US TEN YEARS ON

Monday, 16th of December 2013 Print
  • LISTENING TO THE RUMOURS: WHAT THE NORTHERN NIGERIA POLIO VACCINE BOYCOTT CAN TELL US TEN YEARS ON

Isaac Ghinaiab*, Chris Willotta, Ibrahim Dadaric & Heidi J. Larsonb

Global Public Health, pages 1138-1150


Received: 9 Jun 2013
Accepted: 28 Aug 2013
Published online: 03 Dec 2013

Abstract below; full text available to journal subscribers

In 2003 five northern Nigerian states boycotted the oral polio vaccine due to fears that it was unsafe. Though the international responses have been scrutinised in the literature, this paper argues that lessons still need to be learnt from the boycott: that the origins and continuation of the boycott were due to specific local factors. We focus mainly on Kano state, which initiated the boycotts and continued to reject immunisations for the longest period, to provide a focused analysis of the internal dynamics and complex multifaceted causes of the boycott. We argue that the delay in resolving the year-long boycott was largely due to the spread of rumours at local levels, which were intensified by the outspoken involvement of high-profile individuals whose views were misunderstood or underestimated. We use sociological concepts to analyse why these men gained influence amongst northern Nigerian communities. This study has implications on contemporary policy: refusals still challenge the Global Polio Eradication Initiative; and polio remains endemic to Nigeria (Nigeria accounted for over half of global cases in 2012). This paper sheds light on how this problem may be tackled with the ultimate aim of vaccinating more children and eradicating polio.

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