Gunmen kill Nigeria women giving polio vaccines

Published on NewsOK Modified: February 8, 2013 at 1:00 pm •  Published: February 8, 2013
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There have been other attacks targeting polio vaccinators in Kano. In October, police said two officers involved in guarding a polio immunization drive there were shot and killed. State government officials who oversee the vaccination program did not immediately respond to requests for comment about the attack Friday or whether they'd suspend the drive after the killings.

A Kano radio station earlier this week aired a program talking about how one of its journalists had been attacked by local officials and had his equipment confiscated after coming upon a man who refused to allow his children to be vaccinated. A producer for the program apparently spoke on air about fears people have about the vaccine, which then spread through the city. Kano state's police commissioner later ordered his officers to arrest the producer, officials said.

The suspicion surrounding polio vaccinations in Nigeria exploded in 2003, when a Kano physician heading the Supreme Council for Shariah in Nigeria said the vaccines were "corrupted and tainted by evildoers from America and their Western allies." That led to hundreds of new infections in children in Nigeria's north, where beggars on locally made wooden skateboards drag their withered legs back and forth in traffic, begging for alms. The 2003 disease outbreak in Nigeria eventually spread throughout the world, even causing infections in Indonesia.

Today, Nigeria remains one of only three countries where polio remains endemic, the others being Afghanistan and Pakistan. Last year, Nigeria registered 121 new polio infections, more than half of all cases reported around the world, according to data from the World Health Organization.

Attacks targeting polio vaccinators don't just occur in Nigeria, however. In December, militants in Pakistan killed at least nine workers on a polio vaccine drive. Militants there have accused health workers of acting as spies for the U.S., alleging the vaccine is intended to make Muslim children sterile. Those rumors only grew after it was revealed a Pakistani doctor ran a fake vaccination program to help the CIA track down and kill al-Qaida founder Osama bin Laden.

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Gambrell contributed to this report from Johannesburg and can be reached at www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP .

Associated Press reporter Bradley Klapper in Washington contributed to this report.