Nigeria’s health minister has refuted claims that officers of the Nigerian Army are conducting vaccinations.
In a statement, the minister, Prof. Isaac Adewole, urged citizens to disregard rumors that the military was administering vaccination on school children. According to Adewole, the rumor is mischievous and malicious.
“Health Minister said there was no iota of truth in the claim,”the health ministry said in a statement gotten by HealthNewsNG.
The minister added that members of the public should remain calm as the government is committed to the wellbeing of Nigerians wherever they leave.
Explaining further, he said for any vaccination exercise to be carried out, it would in conjunction with states and local governments.
Ïn addition, necessary awareness would be created through advocacy and community mobilization before such vaccination or immunization exercise in embark on,” the minister added.
He explained that the military does not vaccinate nor participate in immunization exercise in any parts of the country except in two local governments in Borno state which was done at the invitation of the health ministry due to security challenges in the affected areas.
In a related development, the Deputy Director, Army Public Relations, Col Aminu Iliyasu said, “The attention of Headquarters 6 Division Nigerian Army has also reacted to rumours making the rounds that some Nigerian Army Personnel are going round schools in Rivers State dressed in Military Camouflage uniforms with the intention of forcefully vaccinating students with an unknown substance.
He said, “The callous and unpatriotic rumours spread by these enemies of State are, to say the least, despicable, deplorable and highly condemnable by all well-meaning Nigerians as they are intended to cause pandemonium among the general public”.
“The authorities of 6 Division Nigerian Army wishes to inform the general public that while the Nigerian Army plans to undertake such gestures like free medical outreaches, sanitation exercises in host communities and distribution of educational materials as part of our community relations activities during the ongoing Operation Crocodile Smile II, these activities are yet to be conducted”.
“It will eventually be conducted with the consent of relevant authorities of designated communities and at venues and dates that will be duly communicated to the general public through future press releases and relevant posters.
Ilyasu added, “For the purpose of emphasis, the Nigerian Army does not and will never carry out its medical outreaches or vaccination exercises for that matter in Schools”. “We can therefore categorically inform the public that the ongoing rumours about Nigerian Army Personnel going round schools in military camouflage to forcefully immunize school children are not true and should therefore be discountenanced with”.
Government fueled rumor?
A statement issued by the Rivers state government has been regarded as a major fuel for the rumor. In a statement issued by Commissioner for Information and communication, Emma Okah, the state government said: “it did not authorise the Nigeria Army or indeed any other body or person to enter into school premises to administer forced medication or vaccination on any child in any school in Rivers State.
“Inoculation is personal and consent of the Rivers State Government and parents must first be sought and obtained before it can be administered on any school child in a school premises.
“Consequently, all school heads and parents should resist any such attempt.
“Furthermore, the State Government has set up a Task Force to ensure that no school premises is violated in the State for the purpose of imunising any child.
“We appeal to members of the public to remain calm and return their kids to school as RSG will continue to ensure their peace and security.
“Meanwhile the State Government has ordered the arrest of anyone attempting to vaccinate any child in any school premises in Rivers State.”
Premium Times reported that the statement was widely carried by the state media and shared on the social media by residents of the state, with most citing it as credence to the rumour. Even though no school in the state had reported receiving any request to vaccinate their pupils and that the state government also did not state what measures it took to ascertain that illegal vaccination was being carried out and those behind it.