Polio vaccine - Once again, one cannot help but stoke the embers of the polio controversy by asking questions on the dose of polio vaccine being shot into our children, routinely, like food. I was incensed when I read in the Thursday, 25th January 2007, edition of Daily Trust an advert form Rotary International calling on people to submit their children as guinea pigs for another nebulous round of immunisation, which we know no end of.
I deemed it important to add my voice, since I am not a Muslim who can be labelled an 'Islamic extremist' that is opposed to modernisation, as has been the direction of the debate in the past. The whole Polio controversy has been so slanted by religious dogmatism and blackmail, covert intimidation and brazen coercion that one is incensed that otherwise rational minds have turned their backs to reason. How else can one feel when the bases of scientific enquiry are being jettisoned, in the face of nothing but a triviality called polio, relative to calamities such as HIV/AIDS, Tuberculosis, Malaria and Malnutrition?
I was one of the journalists on hand when the press briefing that stimulated the polio controversy held at the Arewa House in Kaduna. Dr Datti Ahmed, a medical doctor and Muslim leader alerted the public of plans to inject children with vaccines that contained agents which could make children unable to experience childbirth when they grow. He explained that the initiators of this idea feared that the projected population of certain Third World Countries was a threat to the First World. Not a few journalists in the hall scoffed at him. I was studying pharmacy in the university and I understood what he meant; that if you inject a foreign body from another living being (such as a vaccine), the human body has the capacity to develop a means of attacking and neutralising that substance with what scientist refer to as anti-bodies. These antibodies are not produced for negligible quantities of the foreign body, however. The quantity must be large or made significant by repeated introduction of the substance into the body, which may explain the endless administration of the vaccines.
One stands the risk of being accused of engaging in pseudo-science for making these observations, but like several professors on my side of the divide, we are open to a healthy debate on the matter. Why is it that all of a sudden we have a drug that has no limit to its administration. You are told how many times to give anti-rabies injection to your dog every year; you are told how many times to take Paracetamol for a headache before consulting a doctor. Why is the case of polio different? Every advert for Polio insists every child from 0-to 59 months must be immunised EVERY TIME the immunisation days come. There is more to this than meets the eye.
When the dean of ABU Pharmacy school, Professor Haruna Kaita took samples of the Oral polio vaccines from Nigeria to India, and declared that the vaccines were contaminated, those of us who saw the thorough scientific nature of the work he and his colleagues did, presented in over 200 pages, laughed when the federal government brought a one-page report of their 'scientific analysis.' Kaita had asked why NAFDAC, whose job it was to screen vaccines had not screened them. He was not insisting on his own result, he was asking that due process be followed by having NAFDAC certify the vaccines.
Only then did we know that Professor Dora Akunyili had with her a South African lab result that showed that the vaccines were contaminated, but the federal government prevented her from releasing it. That was under Mrs Dere Awosika , an influential pharmacist who was head of the National Programme on immunisation NPI. Dora Akunyili never screened them which was why all the vaccines that came under that programme had no NAFDAC registration number. It was only last year, after Awosika's replacement with Dr Edugie Abebe, that Dora Akunyili disclosed that she hoped the coming of Abebe marked the end of the era when NAFDAC was not allowed to screen polio vaccines. Can anyone imagine this coming from our superwoman Akunyili?
To counter Kaita's analysis of the oral polio vaccine, the federal government sent a team of traditional rulers with a few medical practitioners to South Africa and Indonesia, ostensibly to go and screen polio vaccines. These people didn't know that some of the analyses to verify the presence and quantities of some of the impurities required many days in the lab. They had an itinerary that would not allow them to even complete the analysis in one laboratory. When they came back they were transparent enough to publish their result in the PUNCH newspaper, to show the level of their ignorance on the matter. Their results said that six of the 12 samples contained the sex hormones that Dr Datti Ahmed had alerted the nation about. The newspaper headline was "Report confirms safety of oral polio vaccine" and it said 'The equipment showed that six out of the twelve samples had trace levels of Estradiol above minimum quantifiable level.' The PUNCH, February 27, 2004.
Yet do you know what the team said in their advert? They said the vaccines were safe for consumption because the level of contaminants in the vaccine was negligible. "Based on all evidence before us including interactions held with professionals and scientists in various countries, it is the considered opinion of the committee that the Oral Polio Vaccine, when used as recommended in the polio eradication programme is safe." That was 50% failure for a pharmaceutical product and some persons say 'That's fine, no problem'? We know that any pharmaceutical product that records 0.5% failure is trashed and this is 100 times that, and we are told that it is safe?....
When sex hormones are discovered and they are called routine impurities in negligible amounts, the next question a pharmaceutical analyst will ask is "Is this impurity expected in this product, judging by the channel of production?" the answer determines what to do next. For instance, if you produce garri from cassava, chaffs of the cassava are expected contaminants. Same with cow fat in milk and sand in rice milled after spreading the parboiled rice on bare floor. However, polio vaccines are grown and harvested in the kidneys of some special species of monkeys. Kidneys are not sex organs and do not traditionally produce sex hormones; these are substances expected from other organs such as the scrotum or the ovaries. How come then, that sex hormones were consistently found in the samples taken by Haruna Kaita, NAFDAC and the federal government team? Even if one could excuse the trace quantities as either false-positive results or products of accidental contamination, how come they are found in basically uniform amounts, though the vaccines were imported from different countries? And how come Dere Awosika, the then head of NPI never allowed the body saddled with the duty of certifying drug products fit for consumption in Nigeria (NAFDAC) formal access to do their duties. Was there anything amiss? Maybe.
We are worried now, anyway. Immunisation officials have been strutting about the streets without asking questions about our children's ages, but are busy instilling the drops of OPV into their small orifices. Whether they have instructions as to the dose of the vaccines they are not telling that to parents. They are not saying "If you have given your child this vaccine four times, which is the maximum, it is protected." No one has ever said this to my hearing. I write this publicly so that I may be corrected or the relevant authorities may be corrected.
By Odoh Diego Okenyodo