Nigerian parents refusing polio vaccines

Hundreds of parents in Nigeria are risking threats of jail time by refusing to let their children be vaccinated against polio.

Muhammad Abdu Zango, the state coordinator of Journalists Against Polio for the Kano region, recently said that at least 200 people refused the vaccine in one district alone, reports. Vaccinator Amina Ahmed said that in her district, dozens more refused to be inoculated.

The vaccinations were part of a four day drive that targeted at least six million children in a region that officially recorded two new cases of the disease last year.

Local authorities announced that parents who refused the vaccine would be prosecuted. The parents have given a wide variety of reasons as to why they are not willing to allow their children to take the vaccine.

Polio has largely been eradicated throughout most of the world, but the disease remains in pockets in Afghanistan, Pakistan, India and Nigeria. Public health officials say that even a few holdouts from the vaccine could potentially compromise a major eradication campaign like this one.

"Polio is a very resilient disease,” Sir Liam Donaldson, head of the board monitoring the efforts of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative, said, the BBC reports. “There was a big impact in tackling it in the first two decades since the goal. But we still have this very big rump of cases left behind. Tackling the remaining one percent of polio is the greatest challenge yet.”