Unknown gunmen on mopeds shot dead 10 polio vaccinators last week in separate attacks on two polio clinics in the northern Nigerian city of Kano, capital of a polio-endemic region where concerted global efforts are being made to stamp out the virus by the end of 2013.
In 2012 polio infected 28 children in Kano State, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
Health officials fear the attacks will slow progress on the polio campaign in the region.
“The attack on polio immunization workers is a setback to the [polio] programme and the success we have recorded so far… [The] polio eradication campaign is a very important issue with the Kano State government,” Kano State Health Commissioner Abubakar Labaran Yusuf told IRIN.
“This shooting is a serious threat to polio immunization in Kano,” Aminu Ahmed Tudunwada, head of Kano State Polio Victims Trust Association (KSPVTA), told IRIN. “It will take at least three months to get the programme back on track because vaccinators are now scared of going out to do their work.”
Polio vaccinator Naja’atu Usman, 21, was shot but survived the attack. Her elder brother said his sister would continue her work to eradicate polio when she recovered.
“When she fully recovers we will encourage her to continue because polio eradication campaign is a noble undertaking,” he told IRIN.
The vaccinators had just finished a four-day polio immunization campaign in two districts of Kano State and were about to start a one-day mop-up exercise to reach children missed in the initial round.
Health workers were trying to vaccinate 90 percent of all children under five to build up “herd immunity”, or a group’s ability to withstand an epidemic.