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As Islamic clerics boycott vaccination...
Polio races through Muslim countries

In 2003 Islamic clerics in Nigeria proclaimed that polio vaccine was “a Western plot to render Muslim girls infertile and to spread AIDS.” As a result of that boneheaded belief, several areas in Muslim northern Nigeria and Pakistan halted all polio vaccinations.

Prior to the vaccine boycott sparked by Allah’s spokesmen, the World Health Organization (WHO) was on track to accomplish its goal of completely eradicating polio worldwide by the end of 2005. In fact, at its low point in early 2003, polio could be found in only six countries — Nigeria, Niger, Egypt, Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India — down from 125 countries in 1988.

After vaccination stopped, new polio cases spread outward from Nigeria to several surrounding countries. By the time Nigeria’s vaccinations resumed almost a year later, polio had spread to 16 previously polio-free countries, including Saudi Arabia and Indonesia, the world’s two most populous Muslim nations. Genetic typing of the poliovirus found in the newly infected countries confirms that it is of Nigerian origin.

The epidemic is spreading in three countries — Sudan, Yemen, and Ivory Coast — faster than the WHO vaccinators can head it off. Polio has spread to Mecca (in Saudi Arabia), and health officials fear the epidemic will be carried to all parts of the globe as Muslims return home from pilgrimages to that city.

Today polio is found almost exclusively in Muslim countries or regions. Of the 1267 new cases of polio reported worldwide last year, 792 of them were in Nigeria. Infection by the poliovirus may be even more widespread than reported, however, since only 1 case in 200 produces paralysis.

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