THE National Orientation Agency, NOA, in collaboration with United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund, UNICEF, has begun town hall meetings aimed at reversing the anti-vaccination rumours which rocked the South-East geopolitical zone and other parts of the country recently.
Addressing participants made up of rural women, community leaders, health officers, among others, at Ochendo Multipurpose Hall, Apumiri, Umuahia South Council Headquarters, the Abia State Director of NOA, Mrs. Ngozi Uduma explained that the town hall meeting was to counter the anti-vaccination rumours which hit parts of the country recently following a baseless rumour that the military was injecting people with monkey pox vaccine. According to Uduma, if the situation was not handled very well, Abia State people and other parts of the country could have problem of embracing genuine vaccinations such as polio vaccination campaigns. The NOA boss lamented that the situation got to a level that parents have vehemently rejected immunization of their wards to the extent of warning their children to avoid vaccination at school, saying that the enlightenment must be taken seriously to reverse the trend by reassuring the people of the essence of vaccination. “The aim of the town hall meeting is to dispel the pervading rumours against vaccination in the state in particular and to reassure the people of the goodness of the national vaccination campaign. “We all know that the measles vaccination campaign will take place early next year and if nothing is done quickly to dispel the rumours, we may witness a situation of rejection of vaccination, thus impeding the potential for the wellbeing of our children,” Uduma said. She urged the participants to help in spreading the message for the good of the people, especially children who are the main beneficiaries of vaccinations. In his remarks, the Abia State Immunization Officer, Mr. John Onwugbufor who dismissed the rumour said: “If the Army want to carry out any medical outreach as their social responsibility, they must partner with the State Ministry of Health and get approval from other appropriate bodies. We have never had any alliance with the military in terms of carrying out medical outreach in the South-East or any form of immunization/vaccination of children.” Onwugbufor warned that if the rumour was not properly handled and checked, if there were to be any outbreak of disease, child mortality would be on the increase, just as he informed the participants that monkey pox is contracted and not got through injection. He therefore called on the traditional institutions, women, youth leaders, community mobilizers, presidents-general and other community leaders to help NOA/UNICEF educate the rural dwellers on the importance of vaccination in building a healthy society. Commending the NOA/UNICEF for the sensitization programme, a participant, Hon. Enyiazu David, appealed to the villagers to understand the difference between military outreach and immunization/vaccination exercise and promised to carry the message to his community and make them realise the need to make their children available for immunization.