The Minister of Health, Prof. Isaac Adewole, on Wednesday said the country had so far recorded 74 suspected cases of monkeypox in 11 states.
Adewole stated this while briefing State House correspondents at the end of the meeting of the Federal Executive Council presided over by President Muhammadu Buhari at the Presidential Villa, Abuja.
He, however, noted that so far, only three cases of the disease had been confirmed in Bayelsa State.
Adewole said 12 of the suspected cases in Bayelsa State tested negative, while four suspected cases in Lagos also tested negative. He said the government was expecting the result of other suspected cases.
The minister added that advanced tests were being conducted at the African Centre for Excellence for Genomes and Infections Disease, Ogun State, to understand the genome of the virus.
“Even when they are negative, the laboratory attendants should be able to tell us what exactly they are. We will also be able to locate and identify the origin so that we can take adequate precaution,” Adewole said.
He also faulted the claims that the military was vaccinating people against monkeypox and trying to spread the disease across the country.
The minister said, “The military is not involved in any vaccination and I must also really educate the Nigerian people about how vaccination campaigns are done. The Federal Government will take the lead but we do not conduct campaigns without working with states.
“And as of today, we are only doing vaccination in three states, Kwara and Kogi because of the yellow fever outbreak in some parts of the country. We are also doing cholera vaccination in Borno State.
“We’re planning to do a measles campaign very soon, and we will also do yellow fever before the end of the year and we will let you know. You will never find federal health workers conducting vaccination campaign without the support and active participation of the states’ ministry of health, this is just to correct the misconception.”
Despite the minister’s assurances, parents forcefully withdrew children from public and private schools in Omu-Aran, Oro and Ilofa in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State on Wednesday following rumours that soldiers had been drafted to inject pupils with monkeypox virus.
The state government, in collaboration with some federal agencies, has been immunising residents of some parts of the state against yellow fever. While the exercise was on rumours spread around the communities that soldiers had been drafted to inject the pupils with monkeypox virus in the guise of the yellow fewer immunisation.
Bewildered parents and guardians abandoned their businesses and rushed to public and private schools as early as 9am to withdraw their children and wards to prevent them from being injected with any virus.
Many of the schools that had started academic activities for the day quickly closed down. Some of the principals and teachers of some schools locked their gates to dissuade the parents and guardians from gaining entrance and withdrawing their children/wards.
It was gathered that some schools in a bid to stop the withdrawal of pupils and the ensuing face-off with parents/guardians engage the services of officers at Omu-Aran Police Division.
The school authorities had to succumb to pressure and later allowed the pupils to go home, leaving the schools deserted.
The Kwara State Ministry of Health clarified on Wednesday that the ongoing vaccination in Ifelodun LGA and other neighbouring communities was to prevent the spread of yellow fever.
The state Commissioner for Health, Dr. Suleiman Alege, explained that the vaccination had no connection with the Nigerian Army and was not dangerous to the children’s health.
Alege said the exercise was part of the campaign towards preventing and eradicating yellow fever in the state.
He noted that the immunisation was being administered by qualified health personnel working with the Ministry of Health and the local government council.
According to him, the yellow fever vaccines are safe and the exercise which commenced on October 14 will run for 10 days.
He added that the yellow fever vaccination was supported by the World Health Organisation, the National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the National Centre For Disease Control, Abuja.
The commissioner, therefore, appealed to traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, school proprietors, parents/guardians and residents of the state to remain calm and support the ongoing exercise in the affected communities.
Meanwhile, the Chairman, Nigeria National PolioPlus Committee, Rotary International, Dr. Abdulrahman Funsho, who spoke at a press briefing in Lagos on Wednesday, warned that rumours against vaccination in some states could set the country back in its fight against polio, meningitis and other vaccine-preventable diseases.
According to Funsho, some health officials of the organisation on a polio campaign in some states in the South-East were almost lynched.
He also said while some communities in the North which had been receiving vaccinations had started to resist the exercise owing to information from their relations from some states in the South-East.
Funsho said, “Many of us have not been able to sleep since these reports and development began. Some colleagues on awareness campaign in a market in Awka were almost mugged while some communities in the North rejected vaccination as they also received calls from their families living in the South-East warning them against vaccination.
“There is no truth in it, whatever our grouse, we should leave our children out of it. If people continue to believe these rumours and reject vaccination, there could be outbreaks of meningitis, polio and other diseases. We have been in this situation with the North and we believe we will overcome this one.”