By Adebayo Olodan and Kayode Adeoti
There was heightened tension in Oro and Omu-Aran in Irepodun Local Government Area of Kwara State over rumours of a deadly vaccination being administered to pupils and students by the military.
It was alleged that those administering the injection on pupils and students are forcefully doing so with the aid of soldiers. It was also reported that some students had died in Oro after being injected by the ‘deadly vaccine’.
Several parents and guardians abandoned their offices and shops to hurriedly pick their wards as both public and private schools in the two communities locked up.
Also affected were schools in Iloffa, the headquarters of Oke-Ero Local Government Area of the state.
One of the affected parents and a resident of Oro, simply identified as Olorunleke said he initially ignored the rumour but for the fear of losing any of his children to ‘carelessness’ he deserted his duty post to fetch them in their schools.
“I am not one who gives in to panic easily but as the rumour continued to gather steam and many parents and guardians abandoned their shops and offices to pick their children, I had a rethink.
“Though I knew it was impossible for the government or Army to inject our children with any deadly vaccine as being reported, I however saw the possibility of ritualists or people with other underhand motives of taking advantage of the situation,” he stated.
Speaking further, Olorunleke said in schools where the teachers may have abandoned the pupils before the arrival of their parents, to scamper for safety, the situation could be worse.
“Thank God, I had a motorcycle to ride, it would have been difficult if not impossible to pick my three children from Notre Dame Girls Secondary School and St. Andrews Primary School, Oro, in one hour,” he stated.
Also, a pastor in Agan-Oru area, Omu-Aran known as Gbenga, said, “When news broke, we thought it was a joke but when it went viral on the social media that our children will be vaccinated by soldiers, I bolted to Anglican Primary School to withdraw my wards.
“Even if the report was untrue, there was no way I would allow my children to be vaccinated and I will not allow them to return to school at least for the rest of this week,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Kwara State Government has debunked the rumour saying there was no military exercise ongoing in any part of the state.
In a statement signed by the Special Adviser on Security, Alhaji Amusa Bello, the state government called for calm among members of the public.
The statement reads: “It has come to the notice of the Kwara State Government that certain individuals are spreading rumours about soldiers injecting school pupils in Omu-Aran, Irepodun Local Area of the state.
“The general public is hereby advised to ignore such rumours as neither the Nigerian Army nor any other security agency is currently undertaking a vaccination exercise or any other health campaign in any part of the state.
“Members of the public, particularly parents, are advised not to panic and to refrain from withdrawing their wards from schools based on this unfounded rumour.”
Recall that on Tuesday, parents in Ondo and Rivers states withdrew their children from schools over reports that army wanted to inject their wards with the monkey pox virus.
Similarly, the Commissioner for Health, Alhaji Suleiman Atolagbe Alege, yesterday, said the vaccination exercise currently ongoing in the state has no connection with the Nigerian Army and is safe for children.
Alege said the exercise was part of campaign towards preventing and eradicating yellow fever in Kwara. He noted that the immunisation is being administered by qualified health personnel working with the Ministry of Health and council officials.
According to him, the vaccination which commenced on Saturday, 14 October will run for 10 days adding that the exercise is supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), National Primary Health Care Development Agency and the National Centre Centre for Disease Control (NCDC).
The Commissioner, therefore, appealed to traditional rulers, community leaders, religious leaders, school proprietors, parents/guardians and residents of the state to remain calm and support the exercise “as the vaccine is safe for our health.”