Thursday, 14 December 2017

Debunking the Myth on Vaccination and Medical Violence against the Igbos by the Nigerian Army - By Sesan Michael Johnson

Debunking the Myth on Vaccination and Medical Violence against the Igbos by the Nigerian Army

“He asked me whether he should allow his people to come out for the exercise. I told him, no, that if we could not stop them from killing us with guns, we shouldn’t allow them to kill us with syringe.”[1] – Chief Ezeife

The quote above epitomises the hoax (which I refer to as a myth in this article) that engulfed some south-eastern and south-southern states of Nigeria in the month of October this year. The myth is about the peddled idea that the Nigerian Army through vaccination is executing medical violence against the Igbos. The South East geo-political zone was thrown into confusion after claims on social media went viral that some soldiers entered some primary and secondary schools and were forcefully injecting pupils with poisonous substances allegedly causing monkey pox to depopulate the South East.[2]

On the one hand, the social media facilitated the rapidity of the fertilization and proliferation of the myth; on the other hand, the political tension between the Nigerian army and the Igbo separatist group (IPOM) accentuated the permeability and acceptability of the myth by the highly credulous and vulnerable masses in the affected communities/states particularly in areas where the Nigerian Army carried out Operation Python Dance (Egwu Eke II). Without mincing words, the frenzy and the tension created by the myth (attempted medical violence against the Igbos by the Nigerian army) reached its apogee when there was aggravated panic in the communities and massive stampeding at school gates leading to withdrawal of pupils from public and private schools by parents and guardians.

It took concerted efforts to invalidate this myth, Nigeria’s Defence Headquarters (DHQ) through the Director of Defence Information, urged Nigerians to disregard allegations about the spread of monkey pox through military medical outreaches. Using traditional media and the new media; the Federal government, Ministry of Health, the state governments, religious leaders and community leaders joined the efforts in debunking the myths.[3]

Fundamentally, disease like monkey pox continues to project public health problem with social effects that are complex and diverse, involving issues of class, politics, and religion and sometimes attracting public unrest, civil disobedience, and rioting. Extant literatures referred to various instances of resistances which dates back to the 18th century and has persisted to present times in various forms in different countries.[4]  Since the time of Hippocrates (460 – 377 BC), evident in history of disease and epidemiology is the problem of causation. However, the recent public upheaval that pervaded south-eastern states of Nigeria due to the outbreak of monkey pox is not based on facts rather on myth which had been adequately invalidated.

[4] For example see SEAN BURRELL and GEOFFREY GILL, The Liverpool Cholera Epidemic of 1832 and Anatomical Dissection—Medical Mistrust and Civil Unrest, Oxford University Press, Journal of the History of Medicine and Allied Sciences, Vol. 60, No. 4 (OCTOBER2005), pp. 478-498

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