Monkey Pox: 2 injured as panic withdrawal hits Bayelsa, Edo schools over immunization vaccine

From Femi Folaranmi, Yenagoa and Ighomuaye Lucky, Benin

 Two pupils were yesterday injured during a pandemonium in Yenagoa, Bayelsa State capital, over stories of suspicious Monkey Pox vaccination exercise of school pupils.
The stories triggered panic withdrawal as parents and guardians rushed to the schools to pick their children and wards.
There was also pandemonium in most schools in Benin City yesterday following rumours and speculations in the social media that men of the Nigerian Army were immunising school children with monkey pox vaccines.
The Bayelsa State government had announced the immediate suspension of all vaccination exercise and closure of both private and public schools to avoid stampede and disappearance of children from the school premises.
But, the Edo State Government called on residents to disregard rumours making the rounds that the disease has spread to the state.
The government also debunked claims that vaccination against the disease was being carried out in primary schools across the state, urging parents to ‘remain calm as no immunisation exercise against the disease is ongoing.’
Also reacting, the spokesman for the 4 Brigade of the Nigerian Army, Captain Mohammed Maidawa, said: “the story is far from the truth; the rumours going rounds that personnel of the Nigerian Army administer monkey pox vaccines to unsuspecting school children in Edo State is far away from the truth.
“The medical outreach is one of the activities lined up in support of Operation Crocodile Smile II, vaccination and immunisation are not included in the package. Nigerian Army did not conduct any lethal injection, let alone vaccination.”
Maidawa added, “whenever we organised a medical outreach, stakeholders are always involved and with adequate publicity and preparation before we embark upon it. So far, all the medical outreaches we have conducted are blemish free.”
A parent, Nicholas Jones, who confirmed the panic withdrawal, said many of the parent acted on the report that the military men involved in the purported vaccination were in the Bayelsa State capital.
“I received a call from my mother that people are rushing to schools to withdraw their children from schools that some soldiers were killing children with injection. They claimed the soldiers were moving from one school to the other. I also went to withdraw my children from their school. I did that to prevent any issue. Prevention is better”, he said
The Bayelsa State Government reacting to the development ‎suspended all forms of medical outreach programme in public and private schools across the state indefinitely.
The Commissioner for Information and Orientation, Daniel Iworiso-Markson announced the suspension at a joint press briefing with his health counterpart, Prof. Ebitimitula Etebu.
Iworiso-Markson who said the government would monitor the situation and ensure strict compliance, urged the management of schools to verify the identity of those who come around their premises for one thing or the other.  He described as deliberate misinformation the development, which led to the panic and withdrawal of students by parents from schools and stressed that there is no such thing happening.
Speaking also, the Commissioner for Health, Prof. Etebu debunked the rumor, saying it is unhealthy and called on parents to return their children to schools as the government is on top of the situation.
“I want to say that there is no vaccination against ‘Monkey Pox’. So proprietors of schools should not allow any stranger to come and administer such on their pupils.  Anyone dressed in Army uniform, clinical or lab cloth injecting children should be reported”.
In Benin, the rumour, which spread across the state like wild fire, gained ground at about 10am, as parents and guardians besieged schools especially to forcefully remove their wards.
Saturday Sun correspondent who monitored the development observed that most of the parents were soaked in anxiety over the incident.
Some of the schools visited included Oghosa High School, Edokpolor Grammar School, Emokpae Primary School, Crystal Fountain Group of School, Idia College and Olua Primary School.
One of the parents who identified herself simply as, Mrs. Chiazor said: “I came to school because I heard that the killer vaccines are already at the Oredo Local Government secretariat for onward transmission to schools.”
When asked where she got the information, Mrs. Chiazor replied: it’s on radio. Children also died in Anambra after they were vaccinated.”

However, parents met stiff resistance from some of the schools, which included Olua and Emokpae primary schools, as the authorities pointedly told them that the news was fake.
The schools locked out agitating parents and asked them to wait outside or return during closing time to pick up their kids.
The Special Adviser on Basic Education to the State Governor, Dr Joan Osa Oviawe, said yesterday at the Government House, Benin city, in response to false alerts on the spread of monkey pox outbreak in Edo State: “Parents should stay calm and disregard false rumours about vaccination and monkey pox outbreak. Public schools will be notified accordingly when the outbreak in Edo State if it happens. 
“We call on everyone in the state not to give into mass hysteria. If the state schedules an immunisation exercise, we would duly inform parents through the school administrators. Parents should return their children to school without fear. Edo state government is closely monitoring the situation.”
She cautioned rumour mongers to desist from creating unnecessary tension in the state, advising parents to ensure they communicate with the right sources in the state so as not to endanger the lives of their children as a result of unfounded rumours.


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