India appears to be in a grip of a polio outbreak with 352 cases reported so far this year, many of them from areas that were free of the virus, and officials fear the number may increase further. Uttar Pradesh alone has reported 312 cases, the highest of all the states, and World Health Organisation officials have described it as an “exporter” of the disease.
In Uttar Pradesh, officials said 90 percent of the cases were due to ignorance in the minority Muslim community, who believed the polio vaccine could make children impotent.
Only four countries in the world (Nigeria, India, Pakistan, and Afghanistan) are reported to have endemic polio.
I remember reading about a Nigerian Province issue with Clerics claiming “that vaccines supplied by Western donors were adulterated to reduce fertility and spread AIDS as part of a general war on Islam”, which the Wikipedia Polio article verifies. But we have never seen this in India before, and I find it hard to believe. I will remain sceptical about the Muslim clerical influence on India’s polio debacle unless I hear better. News from India sometimes builds its own “truth momentum”, with speculation and hearsay morphing into bulletproof truth in a matter of hours. It is also easy in India to start rumors to deflect blame.Here’s a contrarian take from a Reuter’s Article
“Tens of thousands of children were missed by state health workers over the past year during rounds of immunization, leading to a resurgence of the virus, they said.
“We are very concerned. It raises the threat to India and is also threatening other countries,” said Jay Wenger, head of the National Polio Surveillance Project, a collaboration between the WHO and the Indian government.
One federal official said around 10 percent of children in several western districts of Uttar Pradesh, known for its ramshackle state health care and sluggish bureaucracy, could have missed immunization between late 2005 and early 2006.
“These (vaccination) rounds were of poor quality,” said the official, who did not want to be named.”
Well, sounds more logical, does it not? But why let the depressing truth of inadequacy get in the way of a juicy and self-perpetuating tale of Muslim backwardness.
India, the emerging tiger.